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The Evolution of Parenting

It’s Monday and all things are possible. On my morning commute, I was listening to the most recent episode of the Reboot.io podcast in which Jennifer Goldman-Wetzler recounts her early family history and how it made her become interested in conflict, leading her to write her most recent book.

As I listened to her story, I started to wonder how we are ever able to break out of the cycle of parenting in the same way as we were raised? Simple rebellion may have something to do with it. “I’ll never do this to my children” where “this” is whatever trauma most deeply marked the parent that repeats this phrase.

But I think another part of it might be the cultural recombination that is a natural outcome of marriage. The genetic exchange that happens as part of reproduction is fundamental to evolution and diversity. But just as Harari points out in Sapiens, the unique capability that has catapulted humans to be in charge of everything (sometime’s to everything’s detriment) is our ability to tell each other stories. Those stories form into cultures and today we see cultural evolution as a far more powerful and faster acting element in our lives than genetic evolution.

I think parenting styles in long term relationships is a great example of this and explains another important mechanism in allowing the next generation of parents to change things up. I wonder if this might be another challenge of single parenthood (not that there aren’t enough already): the single parent is left mainly with what they “learned” from their parents about how to be a parent and what they see in the culture at large. They don’t get to recombine their style with their partners in the petri dish of the home and come up with something new and hopefully better.

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