The tribe: normal for human development

I was reading this article today and came across this phenomenal quote:

… [I]t never used to be that children grew up in a stressed nuclear family. That wasn’t the normal basis for child development. The normal basis for child development has always been the clan, the tribe, the community, the neighborhood, the extended family. Essentially, post-industrial capitalism has completely destroyed those conditions. People no longer live in communities which are still connected to one another. People don’t work where they live. They don’t shop where they live. The kids don’t go to school, necessarily, where they live. The parents are away most of the day. For the first time in history, children are not spending most of their time around the nurturing adults in their lives.

You can scroll down to the second interview to find the quote in context.


  1. I found this part of the article fascinating also:

    “Well, the human brain, unlike any other mammal, for the most part develops under the influence of the environment. And that’s because, from the evolutionary point of view, we developed these large heads, large fore-brains, and to walk on two legs we have a narrow pelvis. That means—large head, narrow pelvis—we have to be born prematurely. Otherwise, we would never get born. The head already is the biggest part of the body. Now, the horse can run on the first day of life. Human beings aren’t that developed for two years. That means much of our brain development, that in other animals occurs safely in the uterus, for us has to occur out there in the environment. And which circuits develop and which don’t depend very much on environmental input.

    “When people are mistreated, stressed or abused, their brains don’t develop the way they ought to. It’s that simple. And unfortunately, my profession, the medical profession, puts all the emphasis on genetics rather than on the environment, which, of course, is a simple explanation. It also takes everybody off the hook.”

    I always wondered why horses could walk so early, etc., and this explanation makes sense (to be able to walk upright) but also highlights how much environment has on the development of human brains – more than other mammals.

    Very good article, lots to wonder and reflect on in it.

  2. kim says:

    It’s a fantastic one, hey? It really made me think!

  3. graham says:

    Quite an interesting article. I’d be interested in hearing your perspective on how to overcome the nuclear family structure she describes – especially the stressed out bit. I know you guys have had tonnes to deal with this year, so that’s caused a lot of stress, and I wonder how we in the community can help to relieve some of that stress. I guess I feel confused because I perceive many of the principles of attachment theory to be opposed to the tribe/clan/community approach this author describes as being beneficial.

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