ANT 450/550: Anthropology of Human Development

Tuesdays & Thursdays, 12:30 – 1:45pm, 119 ten Hoor

Dr. Jason DeCaro Office: 14 ten Hoor Phone: 348-9061 E-mail: Office hours: Tuesdays 11:30-12:30, Thursdays 1:45-2:45


ANT 450: 12 hours of anthropology or permission of instructor ANT 550: graduate student in anthropology or permission of instructor

Course Description

Health problems, culturally-competent & socialized adults, and mature physical forms do not emerge from vacuum. They are the outcome of a developmental process with biological, psychological, social and cultural components. This developmental process unfolds throughout the lifecourse, from conception to death. The developmental process is essential to survival and shaped by evolution. This course will survey human development from an anthropological perspective. What are evolved human universals, and what varies by culture or context? Genes contain a roadmap for creating and changing a human – but how do humans collect information from the environment that determines what they actually become? How do we break down barriers between biological, behavioral, and sociocultural understandings of human development?


Course Objectives and Student Learning Outcomes:

At the end of this course students should be able to:

  1. Find reliable developmental data, and use them to illustrate individual and group differences in human development.

  2. Applyevolutionarytheory,withinabioculturalframework,toquestionsin comparative human development not previously encountered.

  3. Outline how multiple factors (biological, sociocultural, etc.) converge throughout the lifecourse to generate differential health and well-being.

  4. Generate new knowledge through effective collaboration with colleagues.

Outline of Topics Covered During the Semester

Part I. Evolutionary foundations of human development across the lifespan 1 1/11 Concepts: Adaptation, accommodation, fitness 2-3 1/16 Life history theory (con’t 1/18)

Read: Hill & Hurtado 1996 – Ch 1, “Life History and Demography”

4 1/23 Evolution of human childhood Read: Bogin 2002 PROJECT I DUE

5 1/25 Parental care 1: social competition & coalition formation Read: Geary & Flinn 2001 6 1/30 Parental care 2: embodied capital Read: Kaplan 2002 7 2/1 Parental care 3: sex differentiation Read: Worthman 1996 8 2/6 Theorizing senescence 1: aging and disease Read: Crews 2003 – Ch 3, “Evolutionary and Biological Theories ...” 9 2/8 Theorizing senescence 2: menopause Read: Leidy 1999

Part II. Essential processes in biological development 10 2/13 Human patterns of physical growth by age and sex – general trends Read: Cameron 2002

11 2/15 Human patterns of physical growth – underlying mechanisms Read: Lampl 2002, Malina 2002 PROJECT II DUE

12 2/20 Differentiation and epigenesis Read: Rakic et al. 2004

Part III. Variation and adaptation in biological development 13 2/22 Adaptation, accommodation & environmental quality: nutrition & growth Read: Martorell 1999 14 2/27 Adaptation, accommodation & climate: the high altitude example Read: Greska 2006 15 3/1 Fetal programming and phenotypic inertia Read: Kuzawa 2005, Worthman and Kuzara 2005 16 3/6 Puberty and its timing Read: Ellis 2004 17 3/8 Political economic determinants of environmental quality and growth Read: Goodman 1998, Crooks 1998 18 3/20 Biology of the impact of experience I: Psychosocial stress/psychobiology Read: McDade 2002 19 3/22 Biology of the impact of experience II: Allostatic load & inequality Read: McEwen & Wingfield 2003 20 3/27 Group project meetings

Part IV. Culture, social behavior and cognition

21 3/29 Film: Jane Goodall’s Wild Chimpanzees
22 4/3 Bioecological theory, ecocultural theory

Read: Bronfenbrenner & Ceci 1994, Weisner 2002 23 4/5 Culture, affect and arousal Read: Super et al. 1996, Chisholm 1996 24 4/10 Social development and language socialization Read: Ochs 2002 25 4/12 Cultural models and their acquisition Read: Strauss 1992 26 4/17 Interpretive drift: socialization in adults Read: Luhrmann 1989 – Ch 1, “What makes magic reasonable?” and Ch 10, “Drinking from Cerridwen’s cauldron” PROJECT IV DUE

Part V. Paradigms for transgressing the boundaries 27 4/19 Linking biology and behavior: behavioral genetics Read: Plomin & Rutter 1998 28 4/24 Linking behavior and evolution: human behavioral ecology Read: Winterhalder & Smith 2000 29 4/26 Linking biology, culture and experience: bioecocultural synthesis GROUP PROJECT DUE, PRESENTATIONS COMPLETE

Part V. Group project presentations 30 5/1 Group project presentations, day 1 31 5/3 Group project presentations, day 2

Attendance Policy

Class Attendance and Participation: This is a discussion-oriented class and attendance is required. More than three absences are considered excessive, and will lower your final grade. Classroom participation is an important requirement of the course and it will figure in the final grade.

Number & Timing of Major Assignments

1. Reading Commentaries. For each class where a reading or readings are due, post on WebCT a one-page typed commentary on the reading no later than 10AM on the day of the class. The commentary should include a brief summary of the author’s major points, and at least two discussion questions that you’d like the class to address. These will be readable on WebCT by everyone enrolled in the class, so that you can see other students’ perspectives on the readings.

Grading Policy

Reading commentaries 25%
Class Discussion 10%
Project I 5%
Project II 15%
Project III 10%
Project IV 10%
Written group project 15%
Group project presentation 10%

Brief Project Descriptions

These are only brief descriptions of each project – more detailed guidance will be available before you need to start working on them.

  1. Project I: Finding Authoritative Information. Pick some question of interest in child or adolescent development (e.g., breastfeeding, attachment, growth rates, puberty, etc.) and use Google and PubMed to find 8 different online sources of information about it. At least 4 should be excellent, credible sources of the type you could use in a term paper. At least 2 should be poor sources of doubtful credibility. You will then provide in a one-page write-up: (1) reference information that will allow me to easily find each source (including exact URLs); (2) a description of each source; (3) a description of how you found each source; and, (4) an explanation of why each source is good or poor.

  2. Project II: Breastfeeding & Life History. Breastfeeding is a critical mammalian adaptation that human infants depended upon virtually without exception until the recent introduction of mass-produced infant formulas. You’ll receive an article called “The Weanling’s Dilemma Reconsidered” that takes a biocultural, developmental approach to understanding weaning. Read this article, and then research & write a 4-5 page report. In the first page, describe two different populations in terms of their rates of breastfeeding initiation, average age at supplementation (introduction of foods other than breastmilk), and average age at termination of breastfeeding. In pages 2-5, briefly discuss how mothers and infants in each population are dealing differently with “the weanling’s dilemma,” and what these differences can tell us about life history strategies.

  3. Project III: Population Differences in Growth. Find charts in the library or from good electronic sources showing child growth patterns for 3 different populations (U.S. reference standards, and two others). In 3-4 pages, describe how they differ from each other, and why they differ (you will need to research some specific factors in each population that lead to the growth patterns we see).

  4. Project IV: Chimpanzee vs. Human Social Development. Chimpanzees, like humans, live in complex societies where they communicate and learn from each other. They may even be considered to have “culture,” depending on your definition of that term. In class, you’ll watch a brief film about chimpanzee society, and make notes of your own impressions – how much is this like human society? What are important ways that it differs? Then, find two additional scientific sources on this topic. In 3-4 pages, describe your own impressions & compare them with opinions in the scientific literature.

  5. Group project. Your group will be assigned a major health problem of complex etiology (cause). As a group, you will research and then outline what is known about how genetics, biological development, social & cultural development and environmental risk factors interact across the lifespan, leading to disease (or wellness). You will need to think about human development from conception through adulthood, not just at a single life stage. Your written project will include at least one diagram showing how these factors relate to each other and to the disease, as well as a narrative (5-10 pages) that explains the diagram and provides additional detail. This is a large amount information to bring together, which is why you’ll do it as a group project rather than individually. It will be important to coordinate well with group members, and split the work on research, writing, and presentation prep fairly.

Policy for Making-Up Missed Course Work

Extensions policy:

  1. Reading commentaries posted after 10am but before midnight on class day will be accepted for half credit. After that, no reading commentaries will be taken for any reason. However, three missed commentaries will be dropped from your grade (or, if none are missed, the three lowest grades). Save these “free misses” to take care of emergencies that might arise.

  2. Written projects must be submitted electronically via WebCT by midnight on the day they are due for full credit. After that, except by prior arrangement and with a very good reason, projects will lose 10% credit for each day (or part of a day) they are late. Many assignments being due at the same time is never a good reason, and extensions will never be authorized on that basis, so please don’t ask. No extensions will be authorized during the 3 days prior to the due date except in the case of a legitimate medical emergency.

Required Course Material

All required readings will be provided or made electronically available in advance. Reading assignments listed in the outline are detailed in the bibliography at the end of the syllabus.

Academic Dishonesty Policy

All acts of dishonesty in any work constitute academic misconduct. This includes, but is not limited to, cheating, plagiarism, fabrication of information, misrepresentations, and abetting of any of the above. The Academic Misconduct Disciplinary Policy will be followed in the event that academic misconduct occurs. Students should refer to the Student Affairs Handbook, which can be obtained in the Office of Student Life and Services in the Ferguson Center

Disability Policy

If you are registered with the Office of Disability Services, please make an appointment with me as soon as possible to discuss any course accommodations that may be necessary. If you have a disability but have not contacted the Office of Disability Services, please call 354-5175 or visit Osband Hall to register for services.

Bibliography of Required Readings

Bogin B (2002) The evolution of human growth. In: N Cameron, ed., Human Growth and Development. San Diego: Academic Press, pp. 295-320.

Bronfenbrenner U & Ceci SJ (1994) Nature-nurture reconceptualized in developmental perspective: a bioecological model. Psychological Review 101: 568-586.

Cameron N (2002) Human growth curve, canalization, and catch-up growth. In: N

Cameron, ed., Human Growth and Development. San Diego: Academic Press, pp.


Chisholm JS (1996) The evolutionary ecology of attachment organization. Human Nature-an Interdisciplinary Biosocial Perspective 7: 1-37.

Crews DE (2003) Human Senescence: Evolutionary and Biocultural Perspectives. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Crooks DL (1998) Poverty and nutrition in eastern Kentucky: the political economy of childhood growth. In: AH Goodman & TL Leatherman, eds., Building a New Biocultural Synthesis: Political-Economic Perspectives on Human Biology. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, pp. 339-355.

Ellis BJ (2004) Timing of pubertal maturation in girls: an integrated life history approach. Psychological Bulletin 130: 920-958.

Geary DC & Flinn MV (2001) The evolution of human parental behavior and the human family. Parenting: Science and Practice 1: 5-61.

Goodman AH (1998) The biological consequences of inequality in antiquity. In: AH Goodman & TL Leatherman, eds., Building a New Biocultural Synthesis: Political-Economic Perspectives on Human Biology. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, pp. 147-169.

Greska LP (2006) Growth and development of Andean high altitude residents. High Altitude Medicine & Biology 7: 116-124.

Hill K & Hurtado AM (1996) Ache Life History. New York: Aldine de Gruyter.

Kaplan H, Lancaster JB, Tucker WT, & Anderson KG (2002) Evolutionary approach to below replacement fertility. American Journal of Human Biology 14: 233-256.

Kuzawa CW (2005) Fetal origins of developmental plasticity: are fetal cues reliable predictors of future nutritional environments? American Journal of Human Biology

17: 5-21.

Lampl L (2002) Saltation and stasis. In: N Cameron, ed., Human Growth and Development. San Diego: Academic Press, pp. 253-270.

Leidy L (1999) Menopause in evolutionary perspective. In: WR Travathan, JJ McKenna, EO Smith, eds., Evolutionary Medicine. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, pp. 407-427.

Luhrmann TM (1989) Persuasions of the Witch’s Craft. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Malina RM (2002) Exercise and growth: physical activity as a factor in growth and maturation. In: N Cameron, ed., Human Growth and Development. San Diego: Academic Press, pp. 321-348.

Martorell R (1999) The short-and long-term effects of improving nutrition in early childhood. In: FE Johnston, P Eveleth, & B Zemel, eds., Human Growth in Context. London: Smith-Gordon, pp. 331-345.

McDade TW (2002) Status incongruity in Samoan youth: a biocultural analysis of culture change, stress, and immune function. Medical Anthropology Quarterly 16: 123-150.

McEwen BS, Wingfield JC (2003) The concept of allostasis in biology and biomedicine. Hormones and Behavior 43: 2-15.

Ochs E (2002) Becoming a speaker of culture. In: C Kramsch, ed., Language Acquisition and Language Socialization: Ecological Perspectives. New York: Continuum, pp. 99-120.

Plomin R & Rutter M (1998) Child development, molecular genetics, and what to do with genes once they are found. Child Development 69: 1223-1242.

Rakic P, Ang ESBC, & Breunig J (2004) Setting the stage for cognition: genesis of the primate cerebral cortex. In: MS Gazzaniga, ed., The Cognitive Neurosciences, 3rd Edition. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, pp. 33-50.

Strauss C (1992) Models and motives. In: R D’Andrade & C Strauss, eds., Human Motives and Cultural Models. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, pp. 1-20.

Super CM, Harkness S, van Tijen N, van der Vlugt E, Fintelman M, & Dijkstra J (1996) The three R's of Dutch childrearing and the socialization of infant arousal. In: S Harkness & CM Super, eds., Parents' Cultural Belief Systems. New York: Guilford Press, pp. 447-466.

Weisner TS (2002) Ecocultural understanding of children's developmental pathways. Human Development 45: 275-281.

Winterhalder B, Smith EA (2000) Analyzing adaptive strategies: Human behavioral ecology at twenty-five. Evolutionary Anthropology 9: 51-72.

Worthman CM (1996) Biosocial determinants of sex ratios: survivorship, selection and socialization in the early environment. In: CJK Henry & SJ Ulijaszek, eds., Long Term Consequences of Early Environment: Growth, Development and the Lifespan Developmental Perspective. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, pp. 44


Worthman CM & Kuzara J (2005) Life history and the early origins of health differentials. American Journal of Human Biology 17: 95-112.