Childcare in the Agta /
Sedentarisation and maternal childcare networks: role of risk, gender and demography
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Description: Worldwide mothers receive help with childcare from a diverse range of individuals (allomothers). Nonetheless, little exploration has occurred into why we see such diversity. Maternal childcare networks may be influenced by the different strategies used to buffer risk and limit losses. Wide maternal childcare networks may be important in situations of little material wealth and food storage - as is common in mobile hunter-gatherers - where households rely on the pooling of risk in informal insurance networks. In contrast, when households settle and accumulate wealth and food, they are able to retain the risk by absorbing losses within the household. Thus, the size and composition of mothers’ childcare networks may depend on whether households pool or retain risk, as captured by mobile and settled households in the Agta, a diverse Philippine population. From in-depth observational data on 78 children, we find that childcare from grandmothers and sisters was higher in settled camps, while childcare from male kin was lower and care from distant and non-kin was unaffected. Our findings offer little support for risk buffering, and additional analyses demonstrated that girls’ workloads were increased in settled camps, unlike boys, while grandmothers had fewer dependent children, increasing their availability as allomothers. These results point to gender-specific changes associated with shifting demographics as camps become larger and more settled.