Institute for the Study of Children, Families and Social Issues
Department of Psychological Sciences
Birkbeck University of London
Childhood Experience and the Development of Reproductive Strategies: An Evolutionary Theory of Socialisation Revisited
Monday, October 4, 2010
Lecture Hall 2, 5:00 PM
Two decades ago Belsky, Steinberg and Draper (1991) advanced an evolutionary theory of socialization. Among other things it cast traditional views about environmental and rearing influences on child development in evolutionary perspective, generating a prediction which differentiated the theory from all prevailing theories of the time, namely, that rearing experiences would not only shape psychological and behavioral development, but somatic development as well. More specifically, stressful rearing environments would accelerate pubertal development (in the service of fitness goals). Longitudinal research consistent with that prediction, much of it very recent, is reviewed. Also presented will be Belsky’s (1997, 2000) modification of the original socialization theory stipulating, again for evolutionary biological reasons, that children should vary in their susceptibility to such rearing influences. Evidence consistent with this claim is also highlighted, along with future directions for research.
Jay Belsky is Director of the Institute for the Study of Children, Families and Social Issues and Professor of Psychology at Birkbeck University of London. Prof. Belsky obtained his Ph.D. in 1978 in Human Development and Family Studies from Cornell University. Prior to joining the University of London in 1999, Professor Belsky served on the faculty at Penn State University for 21 years, rising to the rank of Distinguished Professor of Human Development. In 1983 he won the Boyd McCandless Award for Distinguished Early Contribution from the Developmental Psychology Division of the American Psychological Association. In 1988 and in 1992 Penn State University awarded him, respectively, the Outstanding Research Achievement Award and the Faculty Scholar Medal for Outstanding Achievement in the Social and Behavioral Sciences. In 2002 the Institute of Scientific Information, Philadelphia, PA granted Professor Belsky the Highly-Cited-Researcher designation. In 2007 he was awarded the American Psychological Association Urie Bronfenbrenner Award for Lifetime Contribution to Developmental Psychology in the Service of Science and Society.
Professor Belsky is an internationally recognized expert in the field of child development and family studies. His areas of special expertise include the effects of day care, parent-child relations during the infancy and early childhood years, the transition to parenthood, the etiology of child maltreatment and the evolutionary basis of parent and child functioning. He is a founding and collaborating investigator on the NICHD Study of Child Care and Youth Development (US) and that National Evaluation of Sure Start (UK). He is the author of more than 300 scientific articles and chapters and the author/editor of several books, including most recently The National Evaluation of Sure Start: Does Area-Based Early Intervention Work (The Policy Press, 2007).
Dr. Belsky’s research is marked by a focus upon fathers as well as mothers, marriages as well as parent-child relations, and naturalistic home observations of family interaction patterns. Dr. Belsky’s work has been funded, in the U.S., by grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the March of Dimes Foundation and the Sara Scaife Family Foundation. In the U.K., he has received funding from The Welcome Trust and Department for Education and Skills. Children, Schools and Families. He served as a consultant to Vice President Gore on the issue of work and families, attending the White House Conference on Child Care. In the UK he serves as consultant on matters of child care and early child development to the Office of the Prime Minister, the Treasury, the Department for Education and Skills/Children, Families and Schools and the committee of the House of Commons overseeing this department.
- Belsky, J., Steinberg, L., Houts, R.M., Halpern-Felsher, B.L. & The NICHD Early Child Care Research Network (2010). The Development of Reproductive Strategy in Females: Early Maternal Harshness→Earlier Menarche→Increased Sexual Risk Taking. Developmental Psychology, 46, 120-128.
- Belsky, J. (2010). Childhood Experience and the Development of Reproductive Strategies. Psicothema, 22, 28-34.
- Belsky, J. & Pluess, M. (2009). The Nature (and Nurture?) of Plasticity in Early Human Development. Perspectives in Psychological Science, 4, 345-351.