Best Interests of the Children from an Evolutionary Perspective

Best Interests of the Children from an Evolutionary Perspective

July 24, 2019

Christine Giancarlo, Ph.D.
Senior Lecturer, Anthropology
Mount Royal University, Calgary

Christine GiancarloI’m an anthropologist who studies human, and non-human, primates. I’m also a mother, author (Parentectomy, 2018), and feminist whose primary concern is for a healthy, sustainable future for all. Children are our collective hope for that future. As parents and adults, our job is to make sure that children have the best possible support during their development. Yet when parents divorce, kids are often relegated to the sidelines as the adults bicker, litigate, even fight for who gets the biggest award… measured in court-directed custody time. Research across cultures confirms that children are most likely to succeed in life when they have two parents who love and co-parent them. Whether a couple remains intact or divorced, they remain married to their children for life.This three-part blog uncovers the origin and necessity of two-parent families throughout human evolution as best-practice in child rearing.

Part 1 traces our human story from its earliest stages when our ancestors became bipedal to present-day. Part 2 considers parenting strategies of our closest mammal relatives, especially other primates, for evidence of shared-parenting outcomes. Part 3 is a mash-up of evolutionary, cross-species, and social science research that firmly places co-parenting as in the best interests of children.


Fossil skeletons and footprints preserved in African volcanic ash up to five million years old show us that our ancestors walked much as we do today. These hominins were likely preoccupied with two main concerns: Finding food and… avoiding BEING food! Contrary to popular belief about “man” the hunter and our great brawn/ brain power, these hominins had a small brain (less than 1/3 the size of a modern human brain), lacked speed, claws, and sharp canine teeth. They were, essentially, sitting ducks for predators. Hominins gathered whatever plants they could find and occasionally scavenged meat left from other animals’ kills. So how did they survive and even flourish? Only through cooperation.

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