Editor’s pick: 6 evolved needs for healthy human development

“…we have forgotten that we are social mammals with specific evolved needs from birth.” ~ Darcia Narvaez, PhD, Notre Dame Psychologist, member of Attachment Parenting International‘s Board of Directors

The Attachment Parenting approach can be regarded as parenting guided by nature’s lead — being attuned to our own feelings and instincts as well as our child’s needs, such as following our natural instincts to breastfeed, respond to a crying baby and provide ample physical contact to a developing human baby.

Darcia Narvaez USE5Psychologist Darcia Narvaez has been conducting research on moral cognition, moral development and moral character. On her blog, Moral Landscapes at Psychology Today, she often writes about raising healthy, happy children and parenting. In her writing, she examines the importance of parenting practices that match up with our evolved needs. Narvaez refers to the Evolved Developmental Niche (EDN) as the early “nest” that humans inherit from their ancestors, which matches up with the maturation schedule of the child, emphasizing 6 components:

  1. Naturalistic perinatal experiences
  2. Responsiveness to a baby’s needs including sensitivity to the signals of the baby before the baby cries
  3. Constant physical presence with plenty of affectionate
  4. Extensive breastfeeding
  5. Playful interactions with caregivers and friends
  6. A community of affectionate, mindful caregivers.

These evolved needs align with Attachment Parenting International’s Eight Principles of Parenting.

This week’s featured article is a recent study featured in a report by WSBT Television and soon to be published in the Journal of Applied Developmental Science. The study by Narvaes and colleagues Lijuan Wang and Ying Cheng shows that childhood experiences that match with human evolved needs lead to better outcomes in adulthood.

In the study, adults reflected on the EDN in their childhood. The findings point out that children with parents who were affectionate, sensitive and playful developed into happier and healthier adults with better mental health — feeling less depressed and anxious — and better social capacity.

pixabay - newborn and dadAccording to Narvaez, one of the reasons that the well-being of children in the United States lags behind that of children in other advanced nations is because “we have forgotten that we are social mammals with specific evolved needs from birth.”

Young children’s needs and wants often get confused or misunderstood. Perhaps, with a clear understanding of the distinction between the two — needs versus wants — it may be easier for some to realize and accept the importance of meeting early childhood needs. Babies need — not merely want:

  • Their parents to respond when they cry at night.
  • Physical contact — to be held and get a lot of affection.
  • Their parents to be mindful and responsive.
  • To interact and play with their caregivers.

It is reassuring that, increasingly, scientific research shows what our instincts already know: Children need attachment, affection and sensitivity to thrive.

Learn more about how to discern between needs and wants with our infants and children with these API audio recordings — each just $9:

billsearsNeeds vs Wants: How to fulfill a child’s needs yet discern his wants in a way that preserves healthy attachment” with William Sears, MD

Jean_Illsley_Clarke_Photo“How Much is Enough? Attachment Parenting, permissive parenting and overindulgence” with Jean Illsley Clarke, PhD, CFLE