Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science

Living Edition
| Editors: Todd K. Shackelford, Viviana A. Weekes-Shackelford

Mothers and Maternal Grandmothers and Childhood Survival

  • Rebecca L. BurchEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-16999-6_1163-1



After mothers, maternal grandmothers have the largest effect on child survival.


Arguably the greatest threat to reproduction faced by humans is infant and child mortality. Once an individual reaches adulthood, mortality rates are relatively low, with average lifespan ranging between 68 and 78 years among hunter-gatherers (Gurven and Kaplan 2007). Adults are also likely to find a mate, with virtually 100% of female and at least 90% of male hunter-gatherers doing so (see Volk and Atkinson (2008) for a brief review). The largest fitness challenges humans face, therefore, are first surviving their childhood and becoming reproductively successful adults and then themselves raising children to adulthood. Prior to modern history, infant mortality rates ranged from 25% to 40% and child mortality rates from 36% to 50%. These rates are very similar to modern hunter-gatherer groups (23% and 46%, respectively) (Volk and Atkinson 2008)....

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.State University of New York at OswegoOswegoUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Nicole Barbaro
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyOakland UniversityRochesterUSA