A Natural History of Families

A Natural History of Families

by Scott Forbes
     
 

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Why do baby sharks, hyenas, and pelicans kill their siblings? Why do beetles and mice commit infanticide? Why are twins and birth defects more common in older human mothers? A Natural History of Families concisely examines what behavioral ecologists have discovered about family dynamics and what these insights might tell us about human biology and behavior.

Overview

Why do baby sharks, hyenas, and pelicans kill their siblings? Why do beetles and mice commit infanticide? Why are twins and birth defects more common in older human mothers? A Natural History of Families concisely examines what behavioral ecologists have discovered about family dynamics and what these insights might tell us about human biology and behavior. Scott Forbes's engaging account describes an uneasy union among family members in which rivalry for resources often has dramatic and even fatal consequences.

In nature, parents invest resources and control the allocation of resources among their offspring to perpetuate their genetic lineage. Those families sometimes function as cooperative units, the nepotistic and loving havens we choose to identify with. In the natural world, however, dysfunctional familial behavior is disarmingly commonplace.

While explaining why infanticide, fratricide, and other seemingly antisocial behaviors are necessary, Forbes also uncovers several surprising applications to humans. Here the conflict begins in the moments following conception as embryos struggle to wrest control of pregnancy from the mother, and to wring more nourishment from her than she can spare, thus triggering morning sickness, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Mothers, in return, often spontaneously abort embryos with severe genetic defects, allowing for prenatal quality control of offspring.

Using a broad sweep of entertaining examples culled from the world of animals and humans, A Natural History of Families is a lively introduction to the behavioral ecology of the family.

Editorial Reviews

Danny Reviews
I found much of the medical material new. A Natural History of Families is recommended to anyone interested in evolutionary medicine, wanting a better understanding of pregnancy, or after a genetic perspective on family conflicts.
— Danny Yee
Times Literary Supplement - Seamus Sweeney
Forbes's writing is lively. . . . He explains evolutionary theory lucidly and well. . . . Forbes is good at explaining the subtlety and frequent counter-intuitiveness of current thinking on these topics.
Biologist - Nicola Vollenhoven
This is certainly worth reading if this is an area that you are interested in. Forbes obviously knows his subject.
Danny Reviews - Danny Yee
I found much of the medical material new. A Natural History of Families is recommended to anyone interested in evolutionary medicine, wanting a better understanding of pregnancy, or after a genetic perspective on family conflicts.
From the Publisher
One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2005

"Forbes's writing is lively. . . . He explains evolutionary theory lucidly and well. . . . Forbes is good at explaining the subtlety and frequent counter-intuitiveness of current thinking on these topics."—Seamus Sweeney,Times Literary Supplement

"This absorbing read is an entertaining but sober addition to the library of anyone who is interested in family conflict and the natural world."Biology Digest

"All will welcome [this book] as an interesting, well-researched, extraordinarily well-written, and occasionally humorous work in behavioral ecology."Choice

"This is certainly worth reading if this is an area that you are interested in. Forbes obviously knows his subject."—Nicola Vollenhoven, Biologist

"I found much of the medical material new. A Natural History of Families is recommended to anyone interested in evolutionary medicine, wanting a better understanding of pregnancy, or after a genetic perspective on family conflicts."—Danny Yee, Danny Reviews

Times Literary Supplement
Forbes's writing is lively. . . . He explains evolutionary theory lucidly and well. . . . Forbes is good at explaining the subtlety and frequent counter-intuitiveness of current thinking on these topics.
— Seamus Sweeney
Biology Digest
This absorbing read is an entertaining but sober addition to the library of anyone who is interested in family conflict and the natural world.
Choice
All will welcome [this book] as an interesting, well-researched, extraordinarily well-written, and occasionally humorous work in behavioral ecology.
Biologist
This is certainly worth reading if this is an area that you are interested in. Forbes obviously knows his subject.
— Nicola Vollenhoven

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781400837236
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
01/02/2007
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
256
File size:
2 MB

What People are saying about this

Stanford
An outstanding contribution to the literature on the evolution of human social behavior, this book breaks new ground and, most importantly, frames the family exactly where it should be—in an evolved pattern of behavior in which parents seek to enhance their reproductive success, sometimes at the expense of some of their children.
Craig B. Stanford, University of Southern California, author of "Upright: The Evolutionary Key to Becoming Human"
Robin Dunbar
This book is excellent. Having started reading it, I could not put it down but read it all at one go in a day. Extremely readable, it deals elegantly and succinctly with some of the more complex issues and topics in behavioral ecology of parental investment strategies. It will appeal not only to general readers with an interest in animal and human behavior but to students and academics as well.
Robin Dunbar, University of Liverpool, author of "Grooming, Gossip, and the Evolution of Language"

Meet the Author

Scott Forbes, Professor of Biology at the University of Winnipeg, is a behavioral ecologist whose chief research interest is the evolutionary ecology of families. He has published articles in a wide variety of journals, including "Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, Ecology, Nature, American Naturalist", and "Trends in Ecology & Evolution".

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