Parenting: Science and Practice
Interpersonal relationships constitute the foundation on which human society is based. The infant?caregiver bond is the earliest and most influential of these relationships. Driven by evolutionary pressure for survival, parents feel compelled to provide care to their biological offspring. However, compassion for non-kin is also ubiquitous in human societies, motivating individuals to suppress their own self-interests to promote the well-being of non-kin members of the society. We argue that the process of early kinship-selective parental care provides the foundation for non-exclusive altruism via the activation of a general Caregiving System that regulates compassion in any of its forms. We propose a tripartite structure of this system that includes (1) the perception of need in another, (2) a caring motivational or feeling state, and (3) the delivery of a helping response to the individual in need. Findings from human and animal research point to specific neurobiological mechanisms including activation of the insula and the secretion of oxytocin that support the adaptive functioning of this Caregiving System. (Author abstract)
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