Review

The evolution of flexible parenting

Science  15 Aug 2014:
Vol. 345, Issue 6198, pp. 776-781
DOI: 10.1126/science.1253294

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Abstract

Parenting behaviors, such as the provisioning of food by parents to offspring, are known to be highly responsive to changes in environment. However, we currently know little about how such flexibility affects the ways in which parenting is adapted and evolves in response to environmental variation. This is because few studies quantify how individuals vary in their response to changing environments, especially social environments created by other individuals with which parents interact. Social environmental factors differ from nonsocial factors, such as food availability, because parents and offspring both contribute and respond to the social environment they experience. This interdependence leads to the coevolution of flexible behaviors involved in parenting, which could, paradoxically, constrain the ability of individuals to rapidly adapt to changes in their nonsocial environment.

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