Universal goals of parenthood
Allison Jolly, a primatologist and anthropologist, wrote that humans have, «[…] few, much loved offspring […]» «Love» in this context refers to the prolonged care that primate mothers lavish on their offspring. A specifically human expression of love is Robert LeVine’s 1988 proposal that all human parents have a universal evolutionary hierarchy of goals for their offspring. LeVine’s parental love manifests as three goals: 1) encourage the survival and the health of offspring; 2) develop offspring into self-supporting adults; 3) instill culturally specific and acceptable beliefs and behavioral norms. These universal parental goals are illustrated in the images above. The top left photograph shows Maya mothers at a CARE regional health center. CARE is an international humanitarian agency. The mothers received a food package and their infants and children received a medical examination. The infant mortality for all Guatemala in 1989 was 66 per 1,000, but more than 100 per 1,000 for many Maya villages. Mothers and fathers were justifiably concerned for the survival of their babies. The photograph on the right shows an adolescent young man helping his aunt to prepare traditional foods eaten by families in Sikkim, India. The family operates a small hotel and learning how to help in the kitchen and elsewhere will prepare the adolescent to be a self-supporting adult. Learning traditional food preparation also helps to instill culturally specific and acceptable beliefs. Another example of this is shown in the lower left photo. It is an honor to offer a son to learn to be a Buddhist Monk. The boys as young as seven years old may begin training. They become monks at age 20 years, that is, at adulthood. During their training they live at a monastery. Many of the boys come from very poor families and would have no possibility of formal education. Becoming a monk is their way out of poverty.
Many anthropologists and others have elaborated on Jolly’s and LeVine’s version of love. A common theme of most analyses is that human love manifests in the emotional and physical commitment that many people must make to successfully support a pregnant woman, her infant and older children, juveniles, and adolescents. Walter Goldschmidt called the need for this commitment «affect hunger», which is, «[…] rooted in biology and emerges with culture». To satisfy our affect hunger we humans must have the nurturant love from others to complete our physical development and to bring us to culture. Infants and children deprived of nurturant love often die and those surviving do not grow well in body or brain. They never become healthy, cultural persons. [Barry Bogin]