Fatherhood: Evolution and Human Paternal Behavior Hardcover – May 1 2010
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This is a remarkable book, both for its clarity and for its depth of research and detail. What makes it unique is the authors' multicultural and evolutionary approach to the issue of fatherhood. Among the elite group of scholars who study evolutionary anthropology, I can't think of a pair more qualified to write this book than Gray and Anderson.
--Richard Bribiescas, Yale University
This book should be required reading for all fathers and potential fathers. Whether a man is contemplating starting a family down the road as a biological father or buying one ready-made off the shelf as a stepfather, this is the indispensable guidebook for trying to be good at fatherhood. Similarly, for social and behavioral scientists interested in families and parenting from a cross-cultural perspective, this will become the standard reference for years to come. No matter what perspective one brings to the table--this reviewer's happens to be evolutionary--there is plenty here to make one think. It is almost scary how much information Gray and Anderson pack in this book, let alone how easy it is to read.
--M. J. O'Brien (Choice 2010-10-01)
Gray and Anderson's Fatherhood: Evolution and Human Paternal Behavior, provides a much needed perspective on men's parenting in general, as well as nuanced discussion of how this parenting varies across cultures, historical periods within cultures, and across individual men. The evolutionary perspective is critical, but equally important is the focus on fatherhood, as books and articles on fatherhood are dwarfed by a large and growing body of research on motherhood and alloparenting. In redressing this balance, Gray and Anderson do for fatherhood what [Sarah] Hrdy has done for motherhood...Essential reading for anyone interested in fatherhood and...an excellent starting point for researchers who want to pursue evolutionarily informed studies of fatherhood. Perhaps the most important quality of this work is that it should spark the interest of young evolutionary minded scholars, such that in coming decades fatherhood will be studied with the same care and depth that motherhood has been.
--Drew H. Bailey, Benjamin Winegard, and David C. Geary (Evolutionary Psychology 2010-06-25)
Gray, and Anderson's Fatherhood: Evolution and Human Paternal Behavior is a timely publication that brings together a wide range of research on fathers, the expression of paternal care, and the impacts of paternal involvement. Indeed, for scholars interested in male reproductive ecology or parental investment, among other anthropological topics, Fatherhood would stand on the merits of its review of the existing scholarship on fatherhood. More notably, however, using an erudite, yet, conversational style, Gray and Anderson apply principles of evolutionary theory to this body of literature in a heretofore-missing compilation...Altogether Gray and Anderson present a host of interesting studies that illustrate the unique ways in which humans and other species experience fatherhood under the skin and, even so, elucidate the extent to which researchers have only scratched the surface in these exciting new domains. In total, Gray and Anderson's Fatherhood adds richly to the ways we think about infant care and human cooperation as being foremost to understanding aspects of human evolution...Gray and Anderson have made a significant contribution to the field of biological anthropology. Appealing to both scholars and nonscholars alike, this text represents a new "go-to" source for those wishing to learn about evolutionary, anthropological approaches to human and hominin fatherhood. For those of us who seek to teach the value of a truly integrative approach to these subjects, this book will undoubtedly prove to be a highly valuable commodity at both the graduate and undergraduate levels.
--Lee T. Gettler (American Journal of Human Biology)
[Fatherhood] is helping fill the research gap about fathers. It describes, based on masses of scientific evidence, the so-called "Dad Effect." Or, how fatherhood changes men.
--Douglas Todd (Vancouver Sun 2011-06-18)
About the Author
Peter B. Gray is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Kermyt G. Anderson is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Oklahoma.
Top Customer Reviews
As an academic exercise, it's pretty good. Gray and Anderson are both professors who study fatherhood from a biological/evolutionary perspective. The book covers a wide range of topics, from hormones, to paternity, to cross-cultural models of parenting. In general, I found that it was a pretty good introduction to the topic. I found that the book was at its best when focusing on each author's specialty (paternity-Anderson, hormones-Gray). Experts in the field will probably find a few bits of information in here that they didn't know before, as it's relatively comprehensive and current. That said, I found that there were some minor errors or discrepancies in the authors' data.
The writing in the book is not aimed at too high of an audience, but again, it's perhaps not practical enough to be of great use for the average reader. As a father, it was hard to take home specific suggestions based on the text without already knowing the theory. I would have liked to have seen the chapter on the effects of fathers on their children expanded, as this is really what matters most for fathers, researchers, and society in general. The mechanisms of fatherhood are important, but really, it's what fathers do for their children that matters most to most people.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The authors start the book with chapters that focus on the evolution to human beings with their longer development outside the womb than other primates, the comparable size of men and women (rather than the males being much bigger as in gorillas), and the loss of the "grasping reflect" that most (if not all other?) primates, such as baby chimpanzees, use to cling to mothers, leaving human infants needing to be carried around for a long time while their human brains grow - a job for, you guessed it, fathers.
Then they look at "men and marriage", "fathers and fertility, "who's the dad", "having it all" and so forth.
Some of the chapters are very good. "Babies on His Brain" was especially good. The authors also draw from Hewlett's interesting work that the original hunter-gatherer human cultures that existed for thousands of years involved men doing substantial child care (p. 37) and the period of agriculture (which also happens to be the period of the patriarchal religions) for the last 5000 years where some men did less child care is a relatively short time.
The parts of the book that are the weakest mostly have to do with the fact the book is entirely about the father. This is curious in that the father is making an investment in the child, regardless of whether he even ever sees the child after s/he is born, and success of the offspring, particularly success at reproducing another generation, would seem to be critical from an evolutionary standpoint.
Also, the authors reach some bizarre conclusions about women' behavior, which is salient because reproduction in humans requires two people and an interaction of any father with a woman. They might want to dialogue more with or even write a book like this with women colleagues to avoid this lacuna and distortion.
And they displace to women what is really behavior of men. They say men in Kenya are being chosen on the basis of their status and so are not doing child care. This seems a childlike way to view things. A man in Kenya, just like a man anywhere, has a choice in his mate and could choose a woman who earns her own money, competes in the marketplace, does not see him simply for his status. The authors' strange vaccuum on this compromises conclusions of the book.
Although the authors have a chapter called "Father Involvement, Father Absence, and Children's Outcomes" they don't go into the detail of all the work that's been done in this area (Michael Lamb's anthologies are particularly interesting) in the same way they do in other chapters and they give a curiously superficial assessment, at one point dismissing wholesale these studies as having "selection bias", without detailing what such "selection bias" might be.
In several chapters they discuss interaction with women, with regard to the choice to mate, the sexual behavior of men in late pregnancy and lactation, and the dealings between the parents in the many years it takes then to raise the child to adulthood. They are curiously aloof and deaf to issues of sexual coercion, i.e. women not having a choice in with whom, when or under what terms they mate because of systems that prevent this. They also are remarkably superficial in looking at the motivations of men who seek to go out and have sex with other women when the mother is in late pregnancy and lactation and thus create another baby. And, with regard to the later raising of the child, while they make some very clear assessments that men don't pay child support because they are seeking to give up on the first child(ren) and move on to a second child or set of children (pp. 131-140), and they call out that the attitudes of women that they are primary parents leads to some dysfunctional behavior by men, they again don't track how these things affect the success of the child from an evolutionary standpoint.
The discussions of the fact that paternity is now inexpensively provable (it will soon be available even in very poor parts of the world) tend to gloss over the implications of this for the success of the child (I think they are substantial).
While they put the lie to some evolutionary psychology fallacies by noting that Bill Gates, the richest man in the world, has only 3 children, it is interesting that the average fertility rate of the 30 richest people in the world is actually only about that number. It would only be about 2 if the Catholic ones were excluded (Carlos Slim, Bernard Arnault).
The final chapter, on "Rewriting the Manual", is honest in its confusion, but, again, it is curious that the authors have confusion when there are resources they could have used to deal with some of the issues.
In summary, the book is good but incomplete. The authors' conclusions in some parts of the book are very good and astute, in others they seem pretty off-base. The authors appear able currently only to identify as fathers, and write the book almost entirely about the effects on the father not on the child. While they make a number of personal statements about their own identification and experience as fathers, they do not in the book ever seem to recollect their own childhoods in relation their fathers. It makes the book read as though there sees to be some missing information here and a defense against dealing with that missing information. A psychologist might ask if there is repressed trauma, perhaps chronic emotional neglect or other issues creating a defense against identifying with the experience of the child. In any event, this deficit makes the book weaker than it could otherwise be.
They are, of course, not alone in these issues. Indeed, perhaps the issues of "bad daddery" that cause such inability to recall childhood or identify with a child's experience of a father are widespread enough among people that such issues themselves merit discussion on an anthropological scale. I suspect the fact that paternity now is inexpensively provable has the potential to make a great many childhoods much better and reduce the risks of these traumas, which are so widespread they have become curiously "normalized".
For further discussion and a summary of the book's content per chapter, please see the book review in 'Evolutionary Psychology' from 2010.
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