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Dec 4, 2013 by KAREN FOSTER
Thank Your Grandmother For Advancing Human Civilization

Grandmothers and grandchildren are natural allies. They have the most important thing in common. Namely, the one in between, the baby's parent and grandmother's child. Having grandmothers put on their aprons, pitch in, and fill in the spaces left by busy working parents is not just a nicety, but may actually have helped us to advance as a species. Let’s hear it for the critical contributions of the post-menopausal segment of our community!

A grandmother unites two people as their link and their common adversary. While this may seem unfortunate for the parent in the middle, it has worked well in practice.

It was no accident if your grandmother helped raise you: It was a biological and social necessity that helped you survive and helped your mother have more children.

For half a century, give or take, social scientists have been considering something called the Grandmother Hypothesis. The idea is that, if you look at human progress, you can see that grandmothers have played a significant role. Even if you study contemporary societies that are less-developed (and even societies that are more developed), women who are beyond their childbearing years have the energy and resources to make a difference in the lives of younger families.

In some cases, grandparents are better at guiding than parents. They have more experience with children. They have more time to pay attention to children because they are often retired, while the parents are busy at work. These two advantages make them natural advisers or mentors who will always be ready to listen.

Several studies have revisited these ideas using mathematical models. The result: factoring in the contributions of post-menopausal women, show that they may have helped humans to reproduce at a greater rate than would have been possible without them. These helping hands allowed humans to extend their life spans and produce more offspring. So what if this march toward progress took tens of thousands of years? Grannies were the supply chain--picking berries, feeding fires, pre-chewing and then handing out the musk meat to the little ones back in the cave.

Experience is the grandmother's trump card. She knows more about the world than anybody else and teaches her grandchildren about the history she lived through. She expresses her wisdom and all the pitfalls that encountered that have led to lessons learned.

"Surviving grandmothers may have some effect on the reproduction of their own children," says study co-author Marc Tremblay, director of the Interdisciplinary Research Group on Demographics, Epidemiology and Genetics at the University of Quebec.

This influence is on the number of children that their own children have and how many survive to adulthood, he explains.

"On average, in the families where the grandmother was still living when their children started to have children, there were more children born compared with families where the grandmother was dead," Tremblay says.

Also, more children survived when the grandmother was around than when she wasn't, he adds.

The special granny niche has been to take care of children who are no longer nursing but are not yet capable of being independent. This has indirectly helped to increase the human life span, which helped us to produce more children. So theoretically if you have any complaints about overpopulation, you could blame Granny.

Karen Foster is a holistic nutritionist, avid blogger, with five kids and an active lifestyle that keeps her in pursuit of the healthiest path towards a life of balance.

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