About Gwen Dewar

Founder and author of Parenting Science

What's going on in a child's head?

What captivates her interest? What frightens her? Frustrates her? Brings her joy?

What does she need to feel loved, secure, and willing to seek out new challenges?

And how does she learn all those amazing feats that make our species so powerful--to empathize, to read minds, to use language, to measure, to reason, to analyze, to create?

These questions face every parent. In my case, I can’t help but look for answers in the same places that have shaped my own mind and given my life greater meaning--the fields of evolutionary biology, anthropology, biological psychology, and zoology.

My background

A graduate of UC Berkeley, I received my Ph.D. from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, where I was trained in anthropology, behavioral ecology, primatology, and evolutionary and comparative psychology.

My research has focused on the evolutionary origins of intelligence, social learning, and teaching. These interests have led me to study cognitive development (in human children and in nonhuman primates) and the evolution of parenting.

Does my background influence the way I approach parenting?

Yes it does.

When I think about babies, for instance, I think about how babies and mothers have interacted over millions of years. I think of chimpanzee infants riding their mothers’ backs. I think of the many hours that nonhuman primates spend each day touching and grooming each other. I think of modern hunter-gatherers, and what their lifestyles might (or might not) reveal about our ancestors' parenting practices.

I think of the wide range of parenting styles that humans have developed throughout the world, and I know that the parenting practices associated with my culture--the 21st century, English-speaking West--are neither universal nor biologically-determined.

More generally, my scientific training has reinforced my natural skepticism. When I go to the doctor, I need to know what evidence supports the doctor’s advice. And I approach parenting the same way.

I question practices that are justified merely because they are traditional. I listen to my instincts, but I also check these instincts against what we are learning about the brain, child development, and the flexibility of the human species.

So I suppose my own parenting style might be called “evidence-based, rational, attachment parenting."

Unfortunately, there aren’t very many parenting resources that emphasize evidence-based parenting, and fewer still that encompass a broad, evolutionary, anthropological perspective.

That’s where the idea for this website, ParentingScience.com, came from.

The purpose of ParentingScience.com

I founded this website in 2006 to provide you--the skeptical, science-minded parent--with evidence-based information about parenting and child development. I don’t profess to be a source of wisdom in my own right, and I don't attempt to foist off my own opinions as facts. Rather, my job is to report on the evidence and let you decide.

I hope you find it helpful, and wish you and your family the best.

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