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Grandmothers ... Nature's Built In Nurturers

Grandmothers are the place to go for questions on child rearing...whether it's how to get them to go to bed or whether to worry about the rash you've found on a little tummy. It just seems logical that with all the years of raising her own children - you included - your mom has the experience that you need to get you through the phases your children are going through.

Did you ever wonder, while you're reaching out for the wisdom that a grandmother can offer, why women stop having their own children in time for their grandchildren to arrive? In the animal kingdom it is usual for both males and females to continue their reproductive life until they die. There is no such thing as a grandmother dog or cat in terms of that special family bond.

Dr. Virpi Lummaa and her PhD student, Mirkka Lahdenperä, from the University of Sheffield and Turku in Finland decided to try to find out. They examined the family histories of women in Finland and Canada during the 18th and 19th centuries to determine why humans, unlike other animals, survive long after they are unable to reproduce.

african american grandmother with grandkidsThe journal, Nature, published the results...

Basically, grandmothers can ensure the success of their own family by helping to increase the reproductive success of their adult children. The selfish gene theory at work! The more help grandmothers can provide to the next generation, the better chance the genes have of carrying on. With a grandmother around to help nurture her grown children as parents and to give love and support to her grandchildren, the family system just works better!

The team found that the longer a woman lived after the end of her reproductive years, the more successful her children's reproductive lives would be. When granny was around to offer advice and support, her children tended to begin their families earlier, have a shorter gap between children, have a longer reproductive life and the grandchildren were more likely to survive into adulthood. This was true both for a woman's sons and daughters.

abuela with grandkidsThe team examined the lives of almost three thousand women and took into account different ages, socio-economic status, and social and cultural differences between Finland and Canada. The benefit of having a nurturing grandmother available to help had no class or cultural boundaries.

Dr Lummaa explains, "We consistently found that women gained, on average, two extra grandchildren for every ten years that they lived past their reproductive life. In evolutionary terms this gives a huge benefit as it makes it more likely that women who survive long after stopping reproduction will forward more genes to the next generation. The evidence suggests that the effect is caused by the woman passing her childcare experience on to her offspring. She can also take on some of the responsibilities of childcare, making it more likely that her children will have more children more quickly."

So, the next time you need to call your mom or your mother-in-law for some parenting advice, don't think twice. Apparently, that's the way Mother Nature meant it to be!

Source: Newswise

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