Comparative and evolutionary perspectives

TitleComparative and evolutionary perspectives
Publication TypeBook Chapter
AuthorsMaestripieri, Dario
EditorLeckman, James F., Catherine Panter-Brick, and Rima Salah
Any effort to understand or shape human behavior must take into consideration the notion that there are universal tendencies to behave in particular ways, which are shared by all human beings, as well as differences in the extent to which these tendencies are expressed in particular individuals. Taking a comparative and an evolutionary perspective can help us understand the universal aspects of human aggressive and peaceful tendencies as well as their variation among individuals. Human aggressiveness has a biological basis, but it is neither necessary nor inevitable. Aggressive competition is common in some animal species but uncommon in others, depending on the ratio between the benefits of aggression (obtaining resources or status) and its costs (physical, physiological, psychological, or social). Humans have a high potential for aggression, but aggressive tendencies can be suppressed in particular environmental circumstances. Individuals living in different environments adopt slow or fast life history strategies that make them adapted to those environments. The quality of the early environment, including social experience, is a key determinant of life history strategies. selfish, exploitative, and aggressive tendencies are more common in individuals with fast life histories who are exposed to early stress, violence, harsh parenting, or unpredictable changes in their environment. Comparative research on animal behavior can provide the theoretical framework for understanding the effects of early experience on the development of aggressiveness and peacefulness as well as elucidate some of the physiological or social mechanisms underlying these effects. Rhesus macaque females exposed to harsh and abusive parenting in the first few months of life show anxiety, impulsiveness, and abusive parenting in adulthood. They also reach puberty earlier, are more interested in infants, and tend to be more fertile but die at a younger age than other females. Rhesus macaques raised by nurturing mothers who provide emotional and social support, but also encourage their independence, show normal maternal behavior in adulthood and greater resilience in response to stressful challenges. Even species-typical aggressive tendencies can be reduced through manipulation of the early social environment. Young rhesus macaques with high propensities for aggression can acquire effective skills for peaceful conflict resolution after cohabitation with young stumptail macaques, a species in (p.132) which peaceful conflict management and resolution are more common. The findings of comparative research are therefore consistent with those of research in developmental psychology in indicating that a supportive family1 environment and positive experiences acquired during child development are important prerequisites for the creation of peaceful and resilient adults.
Title Comparative and evolutionary perspectives
Publication Title Pathways to peace: The transformative power of children and families
Publication Type Book Chapter
Published Year 2014
Publisher The MIT Press
Authors D. Maestripieri
Editors J.F. Leckman; C. Panter-Brick; R. Salah
Section 8
Grant List


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