Anthropology of Children and Childhood
Dr. Crystal Patil
Class meetings: Email:
Office hours: Phone: 413 - 2623

Childhood is both a biological phenomenon and a social construct. This course examines childhood both across cultures and from this biosocial perspective. Lectures and readings will use case materials from around the globe. We will start by examining basic Darwinian and evolutionary theory concepts; we will then topically explore biocultural aspects of childhood in a variety of cultural settings. The course will be broken down into four major areas of interest: human evolution, sociology/social anthropology, biological anthropology, and developmental psychology. The goal is to form a biosocial and cross-cultural understanding of children. We will place strong emphasis on how childhood, a uniquely human life stage, varies from culture to culture, and on issues relating to physical and social development of children. Examples will come from both the north and the south, as well as be comparative with other non-human primate species.

Required Texts:

1994 Our Babies: Ourselves: How Biology and Culture Shape the Way We Parent by Meredith Small. New York: Anchor Books (ISBN: 0385483627). Listed as OB on reading outline.

1994 Dancing Skeletons: Life and Death in West Africa by Katherine A. Dettwyler. Prospect Heights, Illinois: Waveland Press (ISBN: ). Listed as DS on reading outline.

Additional Readings online at library website

Course Outline: Week 1 – Introduction – what is biocultural? Designing a research project Week 2 – The state of the world’s children & human rights Week 3 – Case study: street children Week 4 – Physiology of growth & development Week 5 – Evolutionary perspectives on childhood Week 6 – History & Social Construction of Childhood Week 7 – Parenting & Parenthood Week 8 – Birth & the neonate Week 9 – Survival: Nutrition & Growth Week 10 – Survival: Disease Week 11 – Mental health & development Week 12 – Violence Week 13 – Case study: The Girl Child Week 14 – Adolescents Week 15 – Case study: HIV/AIDS