Grandmothers ... Nature's Built In Nurturers
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.
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.
Nature, published the results...
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.
The 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
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
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!