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Did you know the history of grandmothers?


Has your grandmother ever encouraged you to find a romantic partner? Chances are, she probably has and if so, she is only carrying out a tradition that dates to to as far as the prehistoric times!

Anthropologist, Kristen Hawkes is famous for her ‘grandmother hypothesis’ which takes into account pre-historic grandmothering for our long lifespan. She has used computer simulations in order to link grandmothering and our longevity to an excess of older fertile men and the male’s tendency to protect a female partner from the competition and forge the perfect ‘pair bond’ rather than mating with many partners.

She also said that it seems as though grandmothering was extremely important for the development of pair bonds in us humans. Pair bonds are universal in human communities and it distinguishes us from our closest living relatives. According to her hypothesis, human pair bonds have evolved with the higher levels of payoffs for mate guarding and this has resulted from the evolution of our grandmothering life history.

This conclusion, however, contradicts the traditional viewpoint of pair bonding that is resulted from male hunters feeding females and their children as the role of paternity of those children so that the males have descendants that pass on these genes. The grandma hypothesis, on the other hand, is of the view that the key to why mothers can have their next babies sooner is not just because of the father feeding the family but because of the grandmother helping to feed the weaned children. This helps in increased longevity because grandmothers who live for longer also help more.

Towards the latter parts of the 1990s, Hawkes developed the grandmother hypothesis that we developed lifespans longer than other apes due to the fact that prehistoric grandmothers helped to feed their grandkids after weaning, making way for mothers to have more babies sooner and also increasing the prevalence of grandmother’s longevity genes.

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