How do hunter-gatherer children learn subsistence skills? A meta-ethnographic review

Lew-Levy, S., Reckin, R., Levi, N., Cristobal-Azkarate, J. and Ellis-Davies, K. ORCID: 0000-0002-3835-6438, 2017. How do hunter-gatherer children learn subsistence skills? A meta-ethnographic review. Human Nature. ISSN 1045-6767

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Abstract

Purpose: Hunting and gathering is the defining subsistence strategy of our species, and accordingly, studying how foragers earn these skills is essential to the understanding of the evolution key human traits such as life history, cognition, and social behaviour. Though foragers live in a wide variety of ecosystems, and have different cultures, most studies of knowledge transmission are conducted on individual societies. However, cross-cultural studies are needed to extrapolate forager-wide trends in how, when, and from whom hunter-gatherer children learn.
Method: We perform a meta-ethnography, which allowed us to systematically extract, summarize and compare both quantitative and qualitative literature.
Results: Learning subsistence skills begins early in infancy, when parents take children on foraging expeditions and give children toy versions of tools. In early and middle childhood, children transition into the multi-age playgroup, where they learn skills through play, observation, and participation. By the end of middle childhood, most children are proficient food collectors. However, it is not until adolescence that adults, not necessarily parents, begin directly teaching complex skills like hunting and complex tool manufacture. Innovations are not usually generated by children and adolescents.
Conclusion: These findings support the claims made by predictive models that social learning occurs before individual learning. Furthermore, these results show that teaching does indeed exist in hunter-gatherer societies. And, finally, though children are competent foragers by late childhood, learning to extract more complex resources, such as hunting large game, does take a lifetime to perfect.

Item Type: Journal article
Publication Title: Human Nature
Creators: Lew-Levy, S., Reckin, R., Levi, N., Cristobal-Azkarate, J. and Ellis-Davies, K.
Publisher: Springer
Date: 9 October 2017
ISSN: 1045-6767
Identifiers:
NumberType
10.1007/s12110-017-9302-2DOI
Divisions: Schools > School of Social Sciences
Depositing User: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 25 Sep 2017 15:45
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2017 08:18
URI: http://irep.ntu.ac.uk/id/eprint/31682

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