Why care? : the impact of ancestral grandparental investments on caregiving and health today

Hilbrand, Sonja. Why care? : the impact of ancestral grandparental investments on caregiving and health today. 2017, Doctoral Thesis, University of Basel, Faculty of Psychology.


Official URL: http://edoc.unibas.ch/diss/DissB_12119

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Why and how do humans in industrialised societies provide mutual care within and beyond the family? How does caregiving affect older helpers in Europe today? Examining these questions is important because family structures are rapidly changing and life expectancy has increased substantially in 21st century Europe. These demographic changes have often been designated as risks or burdens to society, especially in terms of health care. However, studying our evolutionary roots provides an out-of-the-box perspective that could help uncover social and health potentials lying dormant in these demographic changes.
In this framework, pathways are examined through which ancestral grandparental caregiving may have evolved from caregiving within the family to care provided well beyond biological relatedness. Moreover, it is investigated whether biological relatedness is still relevant in caregiving in contemporary European families. In addition, social and health benefits for older European helpers are explored. Throughout, perspectives from evolutionary biology, sociology, and psychology are linked, showing their complementary nature.
Three empirical research articles and one book chapter are comprised in this framework. The first article shows that biological relatedness between grandparents and their grandchildren was an independent predictor of caregiving levels in industrialised Europe. Equally important, a wide range of socioeconomic factors impacted grandparental care, pointing to the value of an interdisciplinary approach. The second article reviews evolutionary theorising about how the capacity for mutual care within and beyond the family may have evolved in the human species at an ultimate level. In addition, empirical analyses revealed that moderate amounts of help provided within and beyond the family enhanced the helper’s longevity independent of prior health, age, support received, and a range of socioeconomic characteristics. The third article illustrates that the association between helping and longevity was partially mediated by health at a proximate level. Simultaneously, helping remained an independent predictor for longevity. Again, a wide range of covariates was controlled for, including prior health and various socioeconomic characteristics. The book chapter emphasises the new niche of grandfather involvement in childcare. This research area has long been ignored in the literature, but may illuminate valuable resources for contemporary families undergoing structural changes.
Overall, these findings suggest that our evolutionary inheritance of cooperation is still traceable in contemporary Europe and that there are good reasons to mindfully and actively engage in prosocial behaviour. Mutual care is not only beneficial to our personal health at an old age, it is crucial to further evolve as compassionate human beings into the future – provided our species will survive that long.
Advisors:Coall, David A. and Hertwig, Ralph
Faculties and Departments:07 Faculty of Psychology > Departement Psychologie > Ehemalige Einheiten Psychologie > Cognitive and Decision Sciences (Hertwig)
UniBasel Contributors:Hertwig, Ralph
Item Type:Thesis
Thesis Subtype:Doctoral Thesis
Thesis no:12119
Thesis status:Complete
Number of Pages:1 Online-Ressource (200 Seiten)
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Last Modified:08 Feb 2020 14:39
Deposited On:16 May 2017 14:19

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