Beyond the Household: Caribbean Families and Biocultural Models of Alloparenting

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11 Scopus citations


Alloparental or extramaternal care is an integral aspect of human childrearing. This behavior has been explored both as an extension of the primary mother-infant dyad that evolved to meet the demands of altricial offspring and as an economic exchange of energy and resources. Much of this research centers on foraging or small-scale communities and positions the household as the central unit through which to explore negotiations of care. In this review, I use evidence from Black Caribbean communities living in industrialized countries to challenge the broad applicability of the analytical model of the bounded household and to question whether our current articulations of theory and empirical assessments of extramaternal care are well suited to investigations of these behaviors in the vast majority of contemporary human populations. Alloparental practices in the Caribbean reflect dynamic responses to maternal migration and the local influence of global labor markets. The children who remain at home experience variability in the care received from their surrogate parents. The dynamic aspect of the care practices enacted by these transnational families reveals the behavioral flexibility that has been integral to human survival.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)355-372
Number of pages18
JournalAnnual Review of Anthropology
StatePublished - Oct 21 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Caribbean
  • alloparenting
  • families
  • household

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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