Grandmotherhood: The Evolutionary Significance of the Second Half of Female Life

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9780813571416: Grandmotherhood: The Evolutionary Significance of the Second Half of Female Life

By the year 2030, the average life expectancy of women in industrialized countries could reach ninety—exceeding that of men by about ten years. At the present time, postmenopausal women represent more than fifteen percent of the world’s population and this figure is likely to grow.

From an evolutionary perspective, these demographic numbers pose some intriguing questions. Darwinian theory holds that a successful life is measured in terms of reproduction. How is it, then, that a woman’s lifespan can greatly exceed her childbearing and childrearing years? Is this phenomenon simply a byproduct of improved standards of living, or do older women—grandmothers in particular—play a measurable role in increasing their family members’ biological success?

Until now, these questions have not been examined in a thorough and comprehensive manner. Bringing together theoretical and empirical work by internationally recognized scholars in anthropology, psychology, ethnography, and the social sciences, Grandmotherhood explores the evolutionary purpose and possibilities of female post-generative life. Students and scholars of human evolution, anthropology, and even gerontology will look to this volume as a major contribution to the current literature in evolutionary studies.

 

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About the Author:

Eckart Voland is a professor of biophilosophy at the Institute of Philosophy and Foundations of Science at the University of Giessen in Germany.

Athanasios Chasiotis is an associate professor at the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Tilburg University, the Netherlands.

Wulf Schiefenhövel is the head of the human ethology group, Max-Planck-Institute, Andechs/Seewiesen in Germany and a professor of medical psychology and ethnomedicine at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich.

Review:

"An important contribution to the literature, not just on grandmothers, but on human evolution generally. This edited volume provides a forum in which a rapidly developing view of human evolution can coalesce." (Lee Cronk author of From Mukogodo to Maasai: Ethnicity and Cultural Change in Kenya)

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