Indexed on: 01 Sep '08Published on: 01 Sep '08Published in: Human Nature
Cooperative child care among humans, where individuals other than the biological mother (allomothers) provide care, may increase a mother's fertility and the survivorship of her children. Although the potential benefits to the mother are clear, the motivations for allomothers to provide care are less clear. Here, we evaluate the kin selection allomothering hypothesis using observations on Hadza hunter-gatherers collected in ten camps over 17 months. Our results indicate that related allomothers spend the largest percentage of time holding children. The higher the degree of relatedness among kin, the more time they spend holding, supporting the hypothesis of nepotism as the strongest motivation for providing allomaternal care. Unrelated helpers of all ages also provide a substantial amount of investment, which may be motivated by learning to mother, reciprocity, or coercion.