The Anthropology of Childhood
Most children who are studied are from WEIRD (Westen, Educated, Industrailized, Rich, Democratic) societies. Studying children in other societies can be perceived as weird
Two responses traditional societies have towards children: neglecting them until they can talk / be useful or humanizing all their sub human tendencies i.e. making sure they stop sucking their thumbs, bawling
Most of what we see as necessary parenting are completely unknown outside of mainstream societies e.g. reading bedtime stories, orthodontics
In anthropology, the care taker of the child are called as alloparents. This person is not always the mother, just the person who can be sparred from more important tasks. e.g. older sister
The alloparent is oftentimes the older sister. Studies have shown that females chimps will often cradle a ‘doll’ as their child –> This prepares them for child rearing in later years. The baby uses tactics like being cute to get more caretakers and for caretakers to spend more time with it.
“aunting to death” – the older sister and mother will fight for possession of the baby
In contrast, boys aren’t seen as good caretakers. They often take more risks and play more.
In traditional societies, mothers try to find helpers to support her so that she can bear more children sooner. “The Kaluli mothers studied by Bambi Schieffelin in Papua New Guinea not only hold their infants facing toward others in the social group – a practice often noted in the ethnographic record – but treat the baby as a ventriloquist’s dummy in having him or her speak to those assembled (Schieffelin 1990: 71). The Beng advise young mothers: Make sure the baby looks beautiful! … put herbal makeup on her face as attractively as possible … we Beng have lots of designs for babies’ faces … That way, the baby will be so irresistibly beautiful that someone will feel compelled to carry her around for a while that day.”