Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

The Handbook of Parenting (Volume 2): Biology and Ecology of Parenting

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

The Handbook of Parenting (Volume 2): Biology and Ecology of Parenting

Article excerpt

The Handbook of Parenting (Volume 2): Biology and Ecology of Parenting. Marc H. Bornstein (Ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. 1995. 445 pp. Hardcover ISBN 0-8058-1893-6. $99.

This book, which is part of a four-volume set, examines the influences on parenting behavior and is divided into two parts. The first five chapters examine the influence of biological factors (e.g., hormones) on parental behavior. The effects of several contextual factors (e.g., culture) are discussed in the last seven chapters.

Most research on the biology of parenting has involved the study of other species. Often experimental methods, involving the manipulation of hormone levels, are used to see if there are corresponding changes in parental behavior. In Chapter 1, the effects of hormones on the parenting behavior of laboratory animals are summarized. Chapter 2 reviews studies of primates and describes some intriguing findings on factors that contribute to maternal competence among chimpanzees; a crucial factor seems to be opportunities to interact with infants prior to parenting. Chapters 3 and 4 are written by the same authors, with research on nonhuman mammals discussed in Chapter 3 and research on humans summarized in Chapter 4. Because of constraints on research methods, far less is known about the influence of biological factors on human behavior. The concept of intuitive parenting is presented in the last chapter in Part 1. The authors propose that parents are equipped with intuitive, nonconscious predispositions for interacting with infants (a part of our evolutionary heritage), in addition to the ability to make rational decisions about infant care.

Researchers who examine ecological influences on parenting use quite a different lens to study parenting. In Part 2, there are chapters that focus on macro-level factors such as socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and culture. …

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