Evolutionary Psychology and Parenting















Evolutionary Psychology and Parenting














Evolutionary Psychology and Parenting

The evolutionary theory in psychology is used to explore the link between human psychological traits and evolved adaptations. The theory provides the means of studying sexual selection and natural selection as understood within the context of human behavioral evolution (Cervone, 2000). In broad terms, this theory considers human behavior as a consequence of psychological adaptations. The adaptations usually happen as humans try to develop coping skills or adjust their behavior in a way that helps them to deal with the challenges that lurk in their environments. Some studies consider the essence of behavioral adaptations as a necessary for optimizing the potential of individuals and maximizing survival chances in the highly competitive social environment (Colarelli, 2005; Freese, Jui-Chung & Wade, 2003). Evolutionary psychology remains an important discourse of understanding the essence of parenting. The behavioral characteristics that appertain with different types of parenting are regarded as a manifestation of the impact of the adaptation to the natural environment.

In line with this theory, the evolved adaptations that define the relationship between parents and their children depend a lot on the natural bond between them (Colarelli, 2005). Women are known to have a deeper connection to their children as compared to men. According to this theory, the maternal instinct that mothers feel towards their young ones is mainly determined by the certainty of genetic relationship (Freese, Jui-Chung & Wade, 2003). The uniqueness and profundity of the biological connection between the mother and the children plays a crucial role in their mental and psychological development. Naturally, a child is bound to adhere to the values and mores that are routinely instilled by the mother because of unique and natural nature of the attachment. This is because the mother provides the initial and original social climate that determines the character and overall worldview of the child or children. From the onset of childhood development, a child undergoes a mental configuration that is consistent with the influences that it receives from the mother.

Studies that focus on the special role of mothers in parenting often invoke the fact that a child spends more time with the mother than with the father (MacDonald, 1999; Neitzke, 2012). The length of time has a profound effect on the level of behavioral conditioning. Psychological evolution is a gradual process that begins to take shape from the moment that the child begins to acknowledge the special relationship with the mother. Surveys have shown that children who spend long and quality time with their mothers are less likely to experience the psychological challenges of growing up than those who lack such a direct natural guidance (Neitzke, 2012). As such, the mother figure becomes significant in the development of character, particularly during the behavior-forming stages of the child. The nature of relationship may differ from one family to another, but the general impression is that the mother provides the primary care that influences the development of behavior.

On the other hand, fathers are considered as playing the role of the resource-providers within the family setting. To some degree, the role of the father is considered essential, but somewhat indirect because of the element of paternal uncertainty (Keller, 2000). Nonetheless, the provision of the resources and the securing of the environment is important in the whole scheme of parenting. Without the provision of both material support and psychological security, the quality and safety of the offspring is likely to be compromised. Therefore, the male undergoes a form of psychological evolution that helps to foster the continuity of his offspring. According to evolutionary psychology, the aspect of parenting entails supporting and investing in the offspring with the objective of guaranteeing reproductive success (Keller, 2000). The evolutionary process contributes to the quality of parenting especially within the conventional setting of the family.

The direct and indirect aspect of parenting as undertaken by the father and the mother respectively may not play out within the strict provision of the theory given the diversity of thought between the concerned parties (Neitzke, 2012; Keller, 2000). To some degree, it might be argued that the final impact of parenting on the offspring depends on the combined effect of the guidance and the nurturing, which should be undertaken by both parents. Flexible aspects of parenting have often entailed a mix-up of roles with fathers taking charge of roles that are traditionally and culturally assigned to women. Ultimately, parenting becomes a process that takes pace in accordance with societal conditions that result in the gradual changes that take place in an individual over a long period (Jarvis, 2004). If left on their own, the offspring may adjust their lives in ways that are wholly inconsistent with the moral law and societal expectations.

From another perspective, parenting is the process that results into the acclimatization of the offspring with the social environment. The roles of the parents is to provide the guidance that the offspring needs in order to adjust to the requirements of such an environment (Jarvis, 2004). Evolutionary psychology explains the crucial need for the offspring to connect harmoniously with the environment in order enhance the survival of the offspring. The behavioral make-up of an individual plays a crucial role in guaranteeing the survival of the species. The social environment in which the offspring develops has its unique laws and expectations that determine the chances of survival of the child (Dunbar, 2007). Therefore, it becomes necessary for the child to live in such a way that fosters continuity and harmony within the environment. In order for the child to achieve a measure of growth that is consistent with the normal curve, it must adapt particular behaviors that can optimize the element of harmony with the society.

The overall temperament of a child is largely dependent on type of parenting applied by the parents or guardians. The element of survival within the society is considered as crucial across the different stages of the offspring’s development (Dunbar, 2007). Eventually, the child gets to adopt certain practices and attitudes that make life easier and stable within a particular environment. Culture and social expectations usually play a significant role in the evolutionary processes of the offspring. Cultural and social conditioning are undertaken in a manner that contributes to the kind of behaviors that the offspring may develop (Jarvis, 2004). In the long-term, it becomes necessary for the offspring to embrace the kind of behaviors that are consistent with the need for survival within the environment. The influence of parenting often remains with the offspring in the subsequent stages of personality development.

The unique behaviors and attitudes that a child picks up in the eventual stages of growth is dependent on the ability of the parents to influence the behaviors of such a child. Qualities such as ambition, courage, and certain prejudices depend on the quality of parenting that the offspring receives from the earliest stages of parenting (Jarvis, 2004). The element of parenting also proceeds to the level where the child or offspring makes mating choices. Usually, the child makes mating choices in accordance with the condition established by the parents. The parents interests in the mating choices is such that they seek to perpetuate particular attributes and the genetic strengths that accord with the values of the family. The element of continuity is necessary for the overall sustainability of the family lineage (Buss, 2016). Overall, the capacity of the child to manifest the unique qualities supported by the parent depends on the ability to manifest and articulate some of the concerns that usually define the salient values of the family.

Moreover, the parents have the role of intervening between the child’s interests and potentials and the requirement of the society. In general, the natural inclination of the child towards certain behaviors is conditioned by the quality of upbringing (Buss, 2016). Children who are brought up by both parent are more likely to manifest a higher level of behavioral stability than those who are brought up by a single parent or guardians. Many surveys have discovered the existence of significant relationships between a child’s behavior and the quality of parenting. Certain shared characteristics among African-American children have often been associated with the fact that many of them are brought up by single mothers (Jarvis, 2004). One of the studies linked the low-ambition the problem of lawlessness within the African-American communities to the absence of father figures to instill the sense of discipline and hard work in the children.

The parenting challenges within the African-American community has often been ascribed to the lack of the proper inculcation of the values, habits, and attitudes that are necessary to help the children to conform to the requirements of the society (Jarvis, 2004). As such, the offspring fail to follow the natural path of psychological evolution, which I necessary to guarantee their conformity with the social and cultural environment. The rise in juvenile delinquency within the community is symptomatic of the flaws in parenting at a large-scale level. According to some studies, it is possible to recondition the behavior of a child by evoking the moral laws of the society in an environment that features systems and structures that support such laws (Keller, 2000). Mapping the thoughts and behaviors of the child is a process that is usually conditioned by the capacity of the child to internalize and multiply the societal expectations as instilled by the parents.

In some way it becomes possible for the child to adjust to the values impressed upon him or her by the parents in a gradual, consistent, and systematic manner. Given the fact that mothers provide the primary and direct parenting roles for the children, it becomes necessary for them to remain consistent in their articulation of the values and morals of the society in a way that should fosters the behavioral uprightness of such children (Keller, 2000). In an ideal family setting, the mother spends time teaching the child how to behave and the proper usage of language. Parenting becomes a process of bequeathing salient characteristics that determine the behavior of a child within a definite family environment. A child who lacks the support to the parents is forced to develop his or her own survival skills in accordance with the circumstances and conditions that they encounter (MacDonald, 1999). The challenge is the ideal conditions of parenting no longer exist within the general order of the society.

Contemporary societies have complicated the meaning of parenting in the sense that families are no longer organized in accordance with the traditional formation of mother, father, and children. The social environment if beset by a multiple disruptions that complicate the capacity of mothers and fathers to offer quality parenting to their children (Cervone, 2000). In many cases, families are forced to engage the services of other caregivers who take the role of surrogate parents, especially among the working class families. The challenge with such kind of parenting is that the children are unable to adapt with the artificial environment, which often fosters behavioral maladjustment. The psychosocial make-up of the child becomes captive to the external realities that may not align with the interests of the parents and the welfare of the child (Colarelli, 2005).

The evolution of the child from one stage of behavioral development to another requires certain optimum conditions and a high level of consistency. In the absence of such realities, it becomes difficult for the child to connect with the external world of virtues and morals (Colarelli, 2005). The lack or absence of consistent parent support during the critical stages of development is often linked to deviancy. Many children depend more on their teachers, guardians, and colleagues for references into matters of general interest. Insufficient parent input during the development stages eventually leads to gross disorientation between the child and the social environment. Maladjustment becomes the consequence of such an offspring. The genetic or biological relationship between the child and the parent is an important factor in the development of character (Dunbar, 2007). The traits that eventually develop within a child’s psyche are significantly conditioned by the factor of genetics.

Paternal insecurity is a condition that is often ascribed to males after the birth of their offspring. Psychologists explain this condition in terms of the lack of absolute certitude among the fathers about the paternity of the child. According to some psychologists, it is in line with this realization that many fathers choose to pay more attention to children to resemble them in a very profound way (Dunbar, 2007). Fathers may show a certain level of preferential treatment in term of resource allocation to children whose behaviors and appearance bear striking characteristics to theirs. The studies also show that many fathers or males are more interested in genetic reproduction than parenting (Dunbar, 2007; Jarvis, 2004). Their primary concern is to enhance the chances of their own survival by reproducing offspring that carry their genetic material. Optimization and the maximization of the offspring is a factor that spurs the potential of fathers as guarantors of the security and safety of their offspring.

According to some studies, nature plays a significant role in sustaining the element of parenting. Certain biological changes that take place after the birth of a child usually enhance the level of involvement of the father (Jarvis, 2004). Fathers are considered as being inept in the field of parenting. However, the reduction in the sexual urge after the birth of the child allows the father to concentrate more on the role of providing for the family. The involvement of the fathers is usually considered as some form of an adaptation that defines their role in parenting. However, the theory does not provide for cases of improvident or absentee fathers (Jarvis, 2004). The element of guardianship is also crucial for determining the consequence of parenting. Any disorganization or drastic changes in the structure of the family eventually affects the quality of parenting. A divorced father who chooses to marry another woman cannot actualize the essence of parenting in the strict sense.

Survival and reproduction are the primary objective of parenting. The role of the parent is to empower the child with the critical knowledge and strategies that are crucial for adaptation within the environment (Dunbar, 2007). A parent is supposed to pay close attention to the needs of the offspring in order to guarantee their survival within the environment. Besides, the parents are supposed to create a boundary that marks the limits of behavior. Children need positive reinforcement in order for them to stay within the normative circle of behavior without compromising their potential in other respects. The well-rounded development of the child requires the input of both parents in a supportive environment that reinforces the unique strengths of the child while suppressing the inherent weaknesses within the child (Jarvis, 2004). The element of neglect in parenting undermines the growth of the child in ways that lead to the development of negative attachment in the child.

Different parenting styles have a profound impact in the quality of attachment that a child develops in the long run. Among the prominent parenting styles that are often explored under evolutionary psychology include authoritative, indulgent, authoritarian and neglectful (Geher, 2014). In general, authoritative parenting guarantees greater chances of adjustment among the children. One aspect of this parenting is that the parent forces the child to behave in a manner that is consistent with their age. Much of the focus is usually focused on the emotional and intellectual development of the child. The parent tends to communicate the rational and emotional needs of the child in a way that appertains with the culture, norms, and values of the society (Geher, 2014). Usually, the development of insecure attachment issues is usually regarded as a consequence of authoritarian parenting. The capacity of the child to survive within the society and cope with societal challenges depends on the psychological reinforcements that the child receives within the scope of parenting.

Indulgent parenting is usually problematic in the sense that it does not emphasize on the creation of boundaries that limit or condition the behavior of the offspring. Children who grow up under this condition have lower chances of success with regard to relationships and reproduction (Keller, 2000). Neglectful and indulgent parenting is usually problematic in the sense that the children fail to develop trust in the society in which they are born and brought up. In other words, such children show signs of maladjustment, which often compromises their ability to grow and develop in a meaningful manner. The development of positive traits depend on the capacity of the parent to interpret the needs of the children and engage them in a gradual process of development, which inclines with the meaning of evolutionary psychology (Buss, 2016). The assumption is that children are amenable to gradual development of behavior if supported by the positive influences of parenting.

Overall, evolutionary psychology furnishes the understanding the process of parenting in all its facets. Parents have the natural duty to provide the psychological and material support that their children need in order for them to transition from the basic stages of growth to complex stages that entail superior levels of behavioral development. Types of parenting that take place under the optimum conditions of support enhance the social maturity and reproduction capacity of the child. On the other hand, flawed aspects of parenting lead to maladjustment of the child, which manifests in terms of insecurity, loss of trust, low confidence, deviancy, poor reproduction, and disorientation.























Buss, D. M. (2016). The handbook of evolutionary psychology. Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley.

Cervone, D. (2000). Evolutionary psychology and explanation in personality psychology. The American Behavioral Scientist, 43(6), 1001-1014.

Colarelli, S. M. (2005). Evolutionary thought in psychology: A brief history. Personnel Psychology, 58(2), 564-569.

Dunbar, R. I. M. (2007). Oxford handbook of evolutionary psychology. Oxford [u.a.: Oxford University. Press.

Freese, J., Jui-Chung, A. L., & Wade, L. D. (2003). The potential relevances of biology to social inquiry. Annual Review of Sociology, 29, 233-256.

Geher, G. (2014). Evolutionary psychology 101. New York : Springer Publishing Company.

Jarvis, M. (2004). Psychodynamic psychology: Classical theory and contemporary research. London: Thomson.

Keller, H. (2000). Human parent-child relationships from an evolutionary perspective. The American Behavioral Scientist, 43(6), 957-969.

MacDonald, K. (1999). An evolutionary perspective on human fertility. Population and Environment, 21(2), 223.

Neitzke, A. B. (2012). On the genetic modification of psychology, personality, and behavior. Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal, 22(4), 307-43.