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The Value of Using an Evolutionary Framework for Gauging Children’s Well-Being

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Narvaez, D., Panksepp, J., Schore, A. N., & Gleason, T. R. (2013). The value of using an evolutionary framework for gauging children’s well-being. In D. Narvaez, J. Panksepp, A. N. Schore, & T. R. Gleason (Eds.), Evolution, early experience and human development: From research to practice and policy (pp. 3–30). Oxford University Press.

Current US societal practices and accepted childrearing outcomes do not adequately consider the original adaptive conditions of our ancestry and the prosocial emotional dynamics that helped our anthropological and historical ancestors to thrive. Despite the growing evidence for the negative effects of particular early experiences, especially as moderated by emotionally sensitive childrearing practices on the developing brain, scientific research, theory, and policy recommendations do not yet match up with emerging findings. In this chapter, we use an evolutionary framework that includes our evolutionary heritage, sometimes referred to as the “environment of evolutionary adaptedness,” along dimensions relevant today, to examine early-life-experience effects. We discuss several of these early childrearing characteristics in light of related scientific studies and current practices as known. For most practices, research has not identified exactly when and to what extent compromises of evolved, expected care cause problems. Moreover, these compromises may differ as a function of timing, intensity, length, and context. Nevertheless, research reviewed in this volume points to problematic or less than optimal outcomes when these general principles are violated. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved)

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