Alloparental Support and Infant Psychomotor Developmental Delay

David Waynforth*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

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Receiving social support from community and extended family has been typical for mothers with infants in human societies past and present. In non-industrialised contexts, infants of mothers with extended family support often have better health and higher survival through the vulnerable infant period, and hence shared infant care has a clear fitness benefit. However, there is scant evidence that these benefits continue in industrialised contexts. Better infant health and development with allocare support would indicate continued evolutionary selection for allocare. The research reported here used multiple logistic regression analysis to test whether a lack of family and other social support for mothers was associated with an increased risk of developmental delay in 9-month-old infants in the UK Millennium Cohort (analysis sample size, 15,696 infants). Extended family-based childcare during work hours and more maternal time spent with friends were the most influential kin and social support variables: infants of mothers with kin-based childcare versus all other childcare arrangements had a lower risk of developmental delay (OR = 0.61, 95% CIs: 0.46–0.82). Infants of mothers who spent no time with friends when compared with those who saw friends every day had double the odds of delay. Greater paternal involvement in infant care was associated with a lower odds of developmental delay. In conclusion, shared care of infants and social support for mothers may influence fitness-related traits in industrialised societies rather than being factors that influenced selection only in the past and in societies which retain close kin networks and a strong local community focus.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-62
Number of pages20
JournalHuman Nature
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2024


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