Evolution of Human Child and Parental Care

As a student of Biology an observation stimulated my curiosity. Man is the most evolved in the animal kingdom, but the human child is the most helpless and needs a prolonged and sustained parental care for survival. Human child takes more than a year even to gain control over the movements of its limbs. Even after that it needs care, training and monitoring for nearly two decades or even more. The infants of other mammals are able to arrange their food by themselves after weaning, but in the case of human child, parents have to arrange food for him for several years after weaning. Tool based complex system of obtaining food does not allow human child the ability to gather food for quite some time. This period has increased even further with advances in education, technology and culture. Ideally this should not have happened in the course of evolution. How to reconcile the paradox?

The curiosity led to far reaching interesting and revealing facts. Human child is incapable of gathering its food due to physical and mental handicaps. Man needs fine coordination of his fingers for using and making tools used for getting food. Secondly, we are far more dependent on the capacity of our mind for obtaining food in comparison to animals. The types and techniques of our food gathering are far diversified and complex. Man is herbivorous like his immediate ancestors, but additionally he is carnivorous like lions; even though he does not have sharp teeth and claws like a lion. His hunting capability depends upon his ability of working in co-ordinated groups and wielding of tools and weapons controlled and directed by his large brain. Human child is incapable of becoming independent by itself; he needs to be trained with physical and mental skills. For that he needs sustained parental care

A solitary man is weak and helpless. Therefore living alone like other animals is very difficult for him. Therefore he builds a community. Community life is not only responsibility but his need too. He is endowed with emotions, which makes him vulnerable; Community provides him security besides physical, psychological and moral support. He is programmed to face and overcome innumerable hurdles; the community provides hundreds of helping hands to overcome them.

When we view the helplessness of a child in this background, it would not be difficult to understand that prolonged and sustained parental care is crucial to its survival. As it would be clear from the present discussion the helplessness of the child is at the root of the origin and evolution of family and community.

Evolution of modern man (Homo sapiens sapiens) from its progenitors has involved evolution of the sexual cycle. It would be borne out from a cursory look at their reproductive physiology

An Orangutan father does not contribute anything other than its initial contribution of sperm Gorilla, Chimpanzee and Gibbon fathers have role in providing security to their offspring, but human fathers make their offspring learn to obtain food besides providing them with training. Man’s method of obtaining food requires a social organization in which male is obliged to maintain relationships with his female partner even after making her pregnant. So that he may participate in child care of the newborn. Otherwise the probability of the survival of the newborn would be significantly reduced. Consequently the transfer of the genes of the male in the next generation would be affected. To ensure his reproductive success it is obligatory for the father to help his female partner in the care of their child. It would be clear from the later discussion that helplessness of human child is at the back of the origin and evolution of family and community.

Orangutan is closely related to the predecessors of modern man. An Orangutan father makes no contribution other than his sperms in its next generation. Gorilla and Chimpanzee fathers are more involved in providing security to their offspring. But human fathers provide training and guidance in addition to arrange for food and security. This ensures their reproductive success; It becomes obligatory on the part of the father to be involved in child care. Orangutan system , in which the male becomes indifferent to his female partner after copulation, would not be suitable for us, The Chimpanzee system, in which a female cohabits with a number of males, would also not be suitable for man, In this system the male has no idea as to which child in the lot, he has fathered. The male has no disadvantage in the system, because his contribution in the rearing of the child is insignificant. In the case of man, a father needs to be assured that the child in which he is investing his resources, carries his genes. It would be possible on in a system which provides him assurance that he is the only man to cohabit with the female. Otherwise he would be investing in ensuring someone else’s reproductive success.

Mammals other than man are sexually inactive most of the time. They cohabit only when the female is sexually active, which means that she is ovulating. Therefore she is receptive and able to conceive. During this period some features appear on the body of the female, which is a signal; to the males of the species for cohabitation. The expressed sexual activeness and its coincidence with ovulation ensure the probability of conception.

Sexual cycle in man is quite different. The sexual activeness of the female is more or less constant all the year round. It is not related to ovulation. There is no expressed signal of ovulation. Absence of synchronism between ovulation and sexual activeness results in reduced probability of conception with sexual intercourse. Therefore it may not be entirely correct to say that man indulges in sexual intercourse for reproduction, though this inference is correct in the case of other organisms.

Concealed ovulation in man is correlated with sexual intercourse in privacy. All other organisms which live in groups, whether they are monogamous or promiscuous, copulate in public, Then the question becomes relevant - why do we seek privacy for sexual intercourse?

An answer to this question is that concealed ovulation and private copulation have evolved in the process of natural selection so that aggressive competition among the primitive hunter men is reduced and cooperation increases. According to this hypothesis revealed sexual activeness and intercourse would have led to increased tension and discord among the males and females leading to disintegration of the society. On the other hand concealed ovulation and private sexual cohabitation lead to strengthening bond between couples of man and woman resulting in laying the foundation of family. A contingent result is that though the object of sexual intercourse in nature is reproduction, it is not so in the case of man. It would be more logical that man indulges in sexual activities for pleasure and conception is an incidental result.

Some seemingly paradoxical hallmarks of human social organization ensure that in order to attain reproductive success man and woman cooperate economically too; not only between themselves for a prolonged and sustained period but with other people around them also. It is apparent that a sexual relation between a man and a woman make the couple even more intimate. Such an intimacy cannot be established otherwise.


More by :  Ganganand Jha

Top | Parenting

Views: 3558      Comments: 2

Comment Thanks for your observations. This is like beginning from the end. The article presents man in state of nature. Your comments concern the civilized man.who has been moving away from nature . Family is no longer centered around child, DINK( Double income no kid) and DISK( double income single kid) families and live in partnerships. Civilization has distorted the natural blueprint. It would be interesting to see the emerging scenario

24-May-2016 03:28 AM

Comment In relation to the obligation of a man “to maintain relationships with his female partner even after making her pregnant” this is not the rule in modern welfare state, where the single mum families with one or more children are common. You go on to conclude, “It would be more logical that man indulges in sexual activities for pleasure and conception is an incidental result.” - whether in or out of marriage. More, that it escapes responsible relationships to become a fad. It goes without saying this licence involves use of some form of contraception in any of its convenient and readily accessible forms. The consequence of the woman conceiving in a casual relationship is either for her to have a termination, or if she insists on keeping the baby, a sign for her and the boyfriend to part ways - since it was never his intention to be a father. The third party in this is the welfare state, where the man leaves the woman confident that she and the child he fathered will be looked after. Also, career women are quite capable of bringing up a child on their own, and deliberately become pregnant for this purpose, excluding the role of the father. Behind all this we must never forget is the hand of providence, even as time moves forward in one act containing all events as a manifestation of ‘what is’ that could not have been otherwise in the divine affection of that principle – that all may be revealed in fulfillment of the truth.

23-May-2016 09:25 AM

Name *

Email ID

Comment *
Verification Code*

Can't read? Reload

Please fill the above code for verification.