https://labs.la.utexas.edu/buss/prospective-students/ David Buss at University of Texas provides information for prospective students who are interested in pursuing the graduate works with him. This Ph.D. program, I am interested, is Individual Differences and Evolutionary Psychology (IDEP). On the website mentions a long list of readings suggested by the IDEP area. These articles, I believe, serve as fundamental foundations and insights necessary in expanding my knowledge, insights, opinions, scientific endeavor and further research ideas. In pursuit of enlightenment and further discoveries, I therefore decided to begin reading all these great articles provided in the list. I will then summarize the main ideas in each article and some opinions and post them on the blog. This project is one of many milestones of the endless journey – the journey towards exploring human psychology from Darwinian perspectives.
This is the very first article I read in the list. Here it is. A great insight by Belsky, Steinberg and Draper (1991)!
Belsky, J., Steinberg, L., & Draper, P. (1991). Childhood experience, interpersonal development, and reproductive strategy: An evolutionary theory of socialization. Child Development, 62, 647-670.
The article proposed this strong theoretical insight on how childhood experiences influences the reproductive effects in later life, based on empirical evidences.
The hypothesis is that children (in the first 5-7 years of life) who faced social environmental stressors such as (divorces, economic hardships in family, less caring/ supporting parents, marital issues, etc.) induce these children, who later become adults, to display more opportunistic mating efforts (characterized by psychological development (insecure attachment, mistrustful, etc.) somatic/ bodily development (early sexual maturity) and reproductive strategies (e.g., short-term mating, less commitment, more sexual partners, etc.). On the other hand, the children who grew up in nurturing supportive parents in convenient environment with fruitful resources, display opposite characteristics of mating efforts in later life.
Although the adults with the former characteristics faced social issues and may have moral implications in modern society, the behavior patterns are functional in the eyes of evolution. The early environment in which one grew up (the type of context) triggers and expresses the earlier sexual maturity and in pursuing short-term sexual strategies because the past childhood environment might be the accurate biological indicator that one “should” purse quantity (i.e. more mates with less investment) because the environment is unstable, and one does not have not much “time” in passing the genes. THE ENVIRONMENT IS UNPREDICTABLE; one should investment more in reproductive efforts. Evolutionary ecologists propose Life History Theory in which the organism makes trade-off investment among 1). Growth and development, 2) reproduction and 3) parenting. On the other hand, the safe and nurturing context in childhood lead the adults who pursue quality in mating (i.e. higher parental investment and lower mating efforts). These different reproductive efforts could be very viable without much social and moral implications in the Paleolithic environments, in which our ancestors survived and reproduced. Evolutionary psychology is based on the assumption that such mismatched adaptive inherited predisposed mechanism, rather than fast-paced psychological adaptation in the modern society, still works in us.
A few more points I would like to make here. Although the article discussed the behaviors in dichotomy, the authors stated that the efforts and expressions can be seen as a continuum, rather than individuals with one or the other strategy. Secondly, one should not be confused the discussion with biological determinism. Rather, the article implies the interaction between nature and environment. In fact, the proposal should be seen as the differential genes, which predispose individuals to respond differently to environmental stress and lead different developmental pathways. Therefore, a person who had “bad” childhood is not biologically guaranteed to follow early pubertal track and express higher reproductive efforts, rather than parenting.
That being said, the article mentioned that the alternative explanations to all the empirical evidences cited by the authors in favor of their argument could be merely strong genetic component. For example, the strong genetic inheritance from “bad” parents results in “bad” and ill-temperamental children and later adults with these characteristics. The authors suggested two methods to test this alternative explanation. Their theoretical argument assumes strong influence by environmental context and the correlational methods i.e. identical twins who were reared apart by different types of parenting environment should express different reproductive strategies in adulthood. The second experimental proposal involves randomly assigning children in troubled families and at high risks for social problems to a treatment condition, which is effective in preventing these parenting and environmental problems or to a control condition with no treatment. Well, this suggested experimental method by the authors is highly unethical and questionable! It was proposed in 1991, 2 years before I was born. Things have changed, haven’t they?
For the closing statement of my article, I would like to state the following passage mentioned in the article.
We must note at the out- set, following Hinde and Stevenson-Hinde (1990, p. 67), that “there can be no proof” that the developmental phenomena which our evolutionary theory seeks to explain “are the products of natural selection operating in our environment of evolutionary adapted- ness. All that can be said is that, in such cases, a wide range of otherwise apparently independent facts are integrated better by the theory of natural selection than by any other.”