Jared Diamond on how hunter-gathers raised their children

by on December 18, 2012 at 6:21 am in Education, History | Permalink

Speculative, in my view, but I pass it along nonetheless out of general interest.  The article is here, and hat tip goes to The Browser.

By the way, here is Diamond’s forthcoming book (Dec.31) The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn From Traditional Societies?

dearieme December 18, 2012 at 7:27 am

“Hold them, share them, let them run free.” Apart from “share them” that’s how I was raised. And it was only 50-60 years ago.

Anonymous coward December 18, 2012 at 8:51 am

Do we want to raise hunter-gatherers or small-scale farmers?

Ray Lopez December 18, 2012 at 9:45 am

!! the good parts extracted below. Bring out the inner perv in you? LOL. “Another phenomenon affected by multi-age playgroups is premarital sex, which is reported from all well-studied small hunter-gatherer societies. … Because hunter-gatherer children sleep with their parents, either in the same bed or in the same hut, there is no privacy. Children see their parents having sex. In the Trobriand Islands, one researcher was told that parents took no special precautions to prevent their children from watching them having sex: they just scolded the child and told it to cover its head with a mat. Once children are old enough to join playgroups of other children, they make up games imitating the various adult activities that they see, so of course they have sex games, simulating intercourse.
Either the adults don’t interfere with child sex play at all, or else !Kung parents discourage it when it becomes obvious, but they consider child sexual experimentation inevitable and normal. It’s what the !Kung parents themselves did as children, and the children are often playing out of sight where the parents don’t see their sex games. Many societies, such as the Siriono and Piraha and New Guinea Eastern Highlanders, tolerate open sexual play between adults and children. ” Doh! The Bonobo!

Terri December 18, 2012 at 10:14 am

We use some of the parenting methods described in this article and are quite used to the phenomena of being praised for how well-behaved and well-adjusted our kids are, but then getting the disapproval and occasional revulsion at the revelation of said methods. Often from the same people.

Ray Lopez December 18, 2012 at 11:31 am

I believe the Swedes practice parental nudity in front of their kids with no harmful effects (hot tub etc). But in the USA they’d be arrested for child endangerment probably. The Puritanical heritage of the USA, not to mention aging population which tends to turn conservative.

Bill Benzon December 18, 2012 at 2:46 pm

I believe that the Japanese are similar in this respect. There’s a Miyazaki film, “My Neighbor Totoro” in which a father and his two young daughters (say, 4 and 9) bathe together. When the film was first brought to the US that scene was cut.

Ray Lopez December 18, 2012 at 7:23 pm

I’ve heard that child nudity is cut in even avant garde films due to a certain US law banning showing pictures of minors almost without exception (or with exceptions not worth a lawsuit over).

Cliff December 18, 2012 at 11:44 am

Very confused about why the fact that some societies raise their children differently means anything. If he was just saying what Brian Caplan says, which is that parenting doesn’t really matter and a wide range of parenting techniques work out fine, that would make sense. But he seems to be saying we should imitate these practices for some reason.

Also, does Jared Diamond have children? Does he know any children? “the infant spends much or most of the time during the day in a crib or playpen” Whaaaat? What world is he living in?

dan1111 December 18, 2012 at 11:48 am

According to Wikipedia, he has twin sons.

axa December 18, 2012 at 11:49 am

just another book on how to raise children, hunther-gatherers have no books. that would be the first lesson.

the idea that parents have all that impact in children future is nice, but remember nature VS nurture debate? even if the western parents are doing nothing but mistakes raising chidren, is it that important for the future?

dan1111 December 18, 2012 at 12:12 pm

“just another book on how to raise children, hunther-gatherers have no books. that would be the first lesson.”
+1

As for the nature vs. nurture debate, does anyone really claim that nurture has no effect at all? That seems absurd on its face.

subdee December 18, 2012 at 12:14 pm

My hippie parents raised me like I was an autonomous individual. I had a lot of trouble in formal schooling, but no permanent psychological problems, apart from trouble making friends with peers. In the end the parenting style has to fit the society you are living in.

So Much for Subtlety December 18, 2012 at 7:08 pm

Oh come on, surely everyone knows Diamond is full of sh!t. How does he start:

On one of my visits 
to New Guinea, I met a young man named Enu, whose life story struck me then as remarkable. Enu had grown up in an area where child-rearing was extremely repressive, and where children were heavily burdened by obligations and by feelings of guilt. By the time he was 5 years old, Enu decided that he had had enough of that lifestyle. He left his parents and most of his relatives and moved to another tribe and village, where he had relatives willing to take care of him.

First of all, not f**king Enu again. Get some more friends you idiot. Second, WTF? How many five year olds do you know who decide they hate their parents and so move to the next village? Or can even remember doing so?

Diamond clearly has another agenda when he writes (isn’t it interesting that in Collapse he only praises autocracies for instance?). But this seems screwed up beyond repair. I mean, is he serious?

For example, Aka Pygmy children have access to the same resources as do adults, whereas in the U.S. there are many adults-only resources that are off-limits to kids, such as weapons, alcohol, and breakable objects. Among the Martu people of the Western Australian desert, the worst offense is to impose on a child’s will, even if the child is only 3 years old.

Sure, if your eight year old wants your AR-15, keys to the car and directions to the nearest school, don’t you dare impose on his will. Also anyone who told him that about the Martu people of the Western Australian desert is full of crap themselves.

Many societies, such as the Siriono and Piraha and New Guinea Eastern Highlanders, tolerate open sexual play between adults and children. … Some other features of hunter-gatherer childhoods, like the permissiveness of child sex play, feel uncomfortable to many of us, even though it may be hard to demonstrate that they really are harmful to children.

NAMBLA gives this part three thumbs up!

I also worry a bit that he seems ignorant of every passing fashion in child rearing. Much of which is based on the same sort of trite idiocies as this article. Parents often carry their children in those moronic little caboses because some other idiot saw children in Africa didn’t cry much and so it must be that, not the lack of protein what did it.

I am with him on the idiocy of “educational toys” but otherwise what is this a plea for? The modern industrialized world pisses him off in some way so we need to learn from dysfunctional societies that have trouble with bronze? Really?

Cliff December 18, 2012 at 9:07 pm

According to Jared, we must hold our children all day long, naked, while they play with flaming knives. Because hunter-gatherers do that, so obviously it must be optimal.

So Much For Subtlety December 18, 2012 at 9:53 pm

Obviously. And if he thinks these societies produce such well adjusted people, perhaps he could point out one that has a lower murder rate than, say, Chicago. Or Detroit. The Khoisan don’t. I am willing to bet that neither the Western Australian aboriginees or any PNG group he cares to name do either.

Steve Sailer December 18, 2012 at 9:04 pm

Anybody like Diamond’s first book, The Third Chimpanzee, best?

Matt December 19, 2012 at 5:35 pm

Other Westerners and I are struck by the emotional security, self-­confidence, curiosity, and autonomy of members of small-scale societies, not only as adults but already as children. We see that people in small-scale societies spend far more time talking to each other than we do, and they spend no time at all on passive entertainment supplied by outsiders, such as television, videogames, and books. We are struck by the precocious development of social skills in their children.

Yeah, it would be awesome if people didn’t read and had more “self-confidence” than they already do….

Daniel Everett, who lived for many years among the Piraha Indians of Brazil, commented, “The biggest difference [of a Piraha child’s life from an American child’s life] is that Piraha children roam about the village and are considered to be related to and partially the responsibility of everyone in the village.”

…. wonder why that’s the case?

This style of parenting has the result of producing very tough and resilient adults who do not believe that anyone owes them anything. Citizens of the Piraha nation know that each day’s survival depends on their individual skills and hardiness …

How does this line up with the “primitive Communism” concept of hunter-gatherer property? No rugged individualists these…

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