Nuclear families are not radioactive

Way back in 1996, everyone’s idea of an ideal mother-figure, Hillary Rodham Clinton, famously released a book, It Takes a Village: And Other Lessons Children Teach Us, representing an extended riff upon an (alleged) old African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.”

Senator Bob Dole, the Republican presidential candidate of the day, pithily summed up her text’s message thus: “We are told that it takes a village, that is, a collective, and thus the State, to raise a child. And, with all due respect, I am here to tell you it does not take a village to raise a child. It takes a family to raise a child.”

Dole’s words sound like mere common sense, but some recent anthropological research could easily be manipulated by Big State proselytizers like Hillary Clinton to suggest that “science” now says otherwise …

The village people

The paper in question appeared in The Journal of Child Psychology in March, the joint work of two UK-based researchers, Cambridge University evolutionary anthropologist Nikhil Chaudhary and child psychologist Annie Swanepoel.

Based partly upon Chaudhary’s field-observations of the BaYaka pygmies of the Congolese rainforest, the paper argued that, as human beings had “lived as hunter-gatherers for more than 95% of our evolutionary history” in the distant, pre-civilization past, as the BaYaka still did, perhaps our infants had physically evolved to regard such primitive lifestyles as the “natural” ones?

According to the authors, contemporary Western child-rearing practices, which seem perfectly normal to us today, may in fact represent no more than “deviations” from “developmental conditions humans may be psychologically adapted to” as a result of our shared ancient past within collectivist tribal societies of the rough kind Hillary Clinton once fantasized about, but with fewer paper-shuffling bureaucrats.

Raising a child the modern way – that is to say, as part of a traditional two-parent nuclear family, something now suddenly redefined as being modern, the precise opposite of what most readers may previously have assumed – may be nothing more than an “evolutionary mismatch”, this being defined as “when an organism faces conditions that differ from those that some trait of the organism is adapted to, resulting in pathology or maladaptation”.

In simple terms, said the paper, raising your child as your own, rather than treating it as a living item of collective public property, may have been making it mentally ill.


Chaudhary and Swanepoel’s paper describes modern-day Western societies as WEIRD – Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic – thus making them sound inherently unnatural compared to old-style collectivist hunter-gatherer ones like that of the BaYaka. Maybe, when it came to the issue of child-rearing, we 21st-century Westerners were the true intellectual pygmies, not the Congolese?

Amongst hunter-gatherers like the BaYaka, small children (and presumably the children of pygmies are very small …) enjoyed the benefit of what anthropologists call “alloparents”, adults who are not their own parents, but who help raise them anyway, the rainforest’s rough equivalent of nursery-workers or babysitters, but unpaid. As the BaYaka live in communal camps of 25 to 70 persons and all the village children sleep in shared beds, their babies are almost never alone, unlike tots abandoned in their cribs to cry themselves to sleep in barbaric WEIRD nations.

Studies have shown skin-to-skin contact is psychologically beneficial to infants, so hunter-gatherer babies, held, carried in slings or breastfed by parents and alloparents throughout the day, and snuggling up to their friends at night, should therefore grow up to enjoy greater mental health than WEIRD kids.

However, admit the authors, there are some minor disadvantages to such children’s otherwise idyllic, prelapsarian ways of life: 40 percent of them die before adulthood.    

Perhaps this is because, having no schools and being left free to teach one another through play, collaboration, and self-experimentation, “BaYaka infants begin experimenting with machetes soon after they are able to walk, displaying proficiency by mid-childhood.” Increasing numbers of inner-city WEIRD children are also quite handy with a knife these days, but not generally until well into their mid-teens; once again, the pygmies are in certain respects more advanced than we are.

The truly WEIRD habit of sending children to school, therefore, is “often at odds with the modes of learning typical of human evolutionary history”, argues the paper. This is because the average WEIRD school is “passive and sedentary; teacher-led via instruction; separates children by age and ability; and involves high-pressure assessment that can precipitate mental health problems.”

Reform of WEIRD teaching methods could well be needed, then, in which older kids could take over from teachers and educate their younger pals on a peer-to-peer basis, albeit not necessarily in terms of passing on their favourite wild pig-stabbing techniques. After all, “Foraging skills are very distinct from those required for integration into market economies,” admit the authors, so some differences in curricula are only to be expected.

Childhood fantasies

To be fair to Chaudhary and Swanepoel, they are not bizarre, far-left revolutionaries, seeking to overthrow the very basis of WEIRD Western civilization. They admit their thesis is speculative, and that, even if proven, it is difficult to see how precisely our own nations could be remodelled to fit perfectly with those of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. They specifically deny “implying hunter-gatherer practices [of child-rearing] are necessarily better” than our own; they are only seeking to raise questions for potential investigation.

Rather than calling for the immediate abolition of mums and dads, the authors limit themselves to rather more limited experimental suggestions, like letting older siblings take a greater, more hands-on role in childcare as part-time alloparents, or advising teachers that “incorporating some multi-age peer-peer active learning in schools could aid students with ADHD”, which I suppose must be one of those conditions potentially caused by that “evolutionary mismatch” they speak of.

The trouble is, whilst Chaudhary and Swanepoel may not want to dismantle the Western nuclear family unit, their research could easily be abused by those with a more genuine radical agenda to lend their leftist anti-family crusades the spurious imprimatur of “science”.

Black Lives Matter, for example, was notorious for posing as a “global Black family” of “comrades”, who (in words quickly deleted from their website in 2020, once people actually noticed them), sought to turn us all back into a sort of early African-style hunter-gatherers:


“We make our spaces family-friendly and enable parents to fully participate with their children. We dismantle the patriarchal practice that requires mothers to work ‘double shifts’ so that they can mother in private even as they participate in public justice work [i.e. rioting]. We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and ‘villages’ that collectively care for one another, especially our children, to the degree that mothers, parents, and children are comfortable.”

The nuclear family now becomes “Western-prescribed”, as if everyone in the whole world lived in village communes prior to being colonized by WEIRD white Westerners – something which may come as a surprise to nations like the Japanese or Turks, who also lived in nuclear families despite never having been colonized by Europeans, something which suggests such patterns of domestic living may actually be more natural than BLM suggest.

Village idiots

Rather than “decolonizing” the family back into an age-old and supposedly time-tested African model, what BLM really want to do is dissolve it in order to usher in the rule of Marxism. BLM’s founders were trained Marxists, and Marx and Engels themselves once dreamed of destroying the nuclear family too. In the Marxist view, the dominant father represented the bourgeois boss-class, and the oppressed mother the downtrodden proletariat.

Friedrich Engels’ 1884 book, The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, imagined an Edenic, BaYaka-style past for humanity in which female matriarchs ruled over primitive communistic mini-societies in which all property (including kids) was held in common.  Eventually men took over, however, becoming patriarchs who battled one another for control over newly domesticated animals like cattle, which they came to consider their own private property – and, thus, capitalism was born, and mankind (and his kids) expelled forever from Eden. Until, that is, the day of the Glorious Revolution, when the care of children would once again become a public matter, as desired by BLM.

Yet, whenever such quasi-communistic experiments in child-rearing have been actually tried out in the past – as with the Israeli kibbutz movement, where infants also slept in communal “children’s houses”, watched over by rotating shifts of “night-watchmen” alloparents rather than real, blood-related ones – they have not ended as happily as the Marxists might have you believe. Rather than leading to better infant mental health, the impersonal nature of the kibbutzim actually damaged many of their inhabitants-cum-inmates emotionally.

Reviewing Hillary Clinton’s It Takes a Village book back in 1996, the late, great, P.J. O’Rourke dismissed its core thesis thus: “It takes a village to raise a child. The village is Washington. You are the child.” Don’t let the lying collectivists treat you like one.


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