Could being a good father send you to an early grave?

Males with low quality partners put more effort into parental duties to compensate for the shortcomings of their mate, and pay the price by dying younger

Date:
September 22, 2015
Source:
eLife
Summary:
Non-genetic inheritance plays a huge role in determining the characteristics of offspring. For example, bad parenting creates bad parents-to-be, while well-cared for larvae mature into high quality parents.

When a good insect father pairs with a bad mother, he risks being exploited by her for childcare and could bear the ultimate cost by dying young.

A new study carried out with burying beetles also shows that bad parenting creates bad parents-to-be, while well-cared for larvae mature into high quality parents.

The research will be published in the journal eLife.

“Parents obviously play a huge role in determining the characteristics of their offspring,” says lead researcher Professor Rebecca Kilner from the Department of Zoology at the University of Cambridge.

“The aim of our study was to investigate non-genetic ways that parents achieve this.”

This is important because non-genetic inheritance could speed up the rate at which animal behaviour evolves and adapts in a rapidly changing world.

Whether examining mothers or fathers, the research team found that individuals that received no care as larvae were less effective at raising a large brood as parents, and died younger. In contrast, high quality care not only produces a larger brood, but individual offspring with a higher mass. This is consistent with previous studies.

“We found that parental care provides a mechanism for non-genetic inheritance. Good quality parents produce offspring that become good parents themselves, while offspring that receive poor parenting then become low quality parents. Our experiments show how parental care allows offspring to inherit characteristics of their parents, but non-genetically,” she says.

However, the team also found that offspring pay a cost for receiving high quality care, because it makes them vulnerable to exploitation if they pair up with a lower quality partner. This may explain why animals often choose a mate who is willing to put in a similar amount of effort as they as a parent. In this way, they are less vulnerable to exploitation.

The burying beetle, Nicrophorus vespilloides, uses the carcass of a small vertebrate such as a mouse as an edible nest for its young. As its name suggests, a breeding pair buries the carcass and preserves it with an antibacterial secretion. The mother lays eggs nearby in the soil, and the larvae crawl to the carcass when they hatch. Although the larvae can feed themselves, they also beg both parents for partly-digested food from the carcass.

In the current study, when males were paired with females that had received no post-hatching care as larvae, they had significantly shorter lives than those whose partners had received more care. The most likely explanation is that males with low quality partners put more effort into parental duties to compensate for the shortcomings of their mate, and paid the price by dying younger.


Story Source:

The above post is reprinted from materials provided by eLife. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. RM Kilner, G Boncoraglio, JM Henshaw, BJM Jarrett, O De Gasperin, A Attisano, H Kokko. Parental effects alter the adaptive value of an adult behavioural trait. eLife, 2015; 4 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.07340

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Modern Parenting May Hinder Brain Development, Research Suggests

an. 7, 2013 — Social practices and cultural beliefs of modern life are preventing healthy brain and emotional development in children, according to an interdisciplinary body of research presented recently at a symposium at the University of Notre Dame.

 

“Life outcomes for American youth are worsening, especially in comparison to 50 years ago,” says Darcia Narvaez, Notre Dame professor of psychology who specializes in moral development in children and how early life experiences can influence brain development.

“Ill-advised practices and beliefs have become commonplace in our culture, such as the use of infant formula, the isolation of infants in their own rooms or the belief that responding too quickly to a fussing baby will ‘spoil’ it,” Narvaez says.

This new research links certain early, nurturing parenting practices — the kind common in foraging hunter-gatherer societies — to specific, healthy emotional outcomes in adulthood, and has many experts rethinking some of our modern, cultural child-rearing “norms.”

“Breast-feeding infants, responsiveness to crying, almost constant touch and having multiple adult caregivers are some of the nurturing ancestral parenting practices that are shown to positively impact the developing brain, which not only shapes personality, but also helps physical health and moral development,” says Narvaez.

Studies show that responding to a baby’s needs (not letting a baby “cry it out”) has been shown to influence the development of conscience; positive touch affects stress reactivity, impulse control and empathy; free play in nature influences social capacities and aggression; and a set of supportive caregivers (beyond the mother alone) predicts IQ and ego resilience as well as empathy.

The United States has been on a downward trajectory on all of these care characteristics, according to Narvaez. Instead of being held, infants spend much more time in carriers, car seats and strollers than they did in the past. Only about 15 percent of mothers are breast-feeding at all by 12 months, extended families are broken up and free play allowed by parents has decreased dramatically since 1970.

Whether the corollary to these modern practices or the result of other forces, an epidemic of anxiety and depression among all age groups, including young children; rising rates of aggressive behavior and delinquency in young children; and decreasing empathy, the backbone of compassionate, moral behavior, among college students, are shown in research.

According to Narvaez, however, other relatives and teachers also can have a beneficial impact when a child feels safe in their presence. Also, early deficits can be made up later, she says.

“The right brain, which governs much of our self-regulation, creativity and empathy, can grow throughout life. The right brain grows though full-body experience like rough-and-tumble play, dancing or freelance artistic creation. So at any point, a parent can take up a creative activity with a child and they can grow together.”

Further information: http://ccf.nd.edu/symposium/2012-symposium-presentations/

 

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted from materials provided byUniversity of Notre Dame. The original article was written by Susan Guibert.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.


 

 

University of Notre Dame (2013, January 7). Modern parenting may hinder brain development, research suggests.ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 10, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130107110538.htm