Maya Children

Maya Children : Helpers at the Farm

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Among the Maya of Xculoc, an isolated farming village in the lowland forests of the Yucatan peninsula, children contribute to household production in considerable ways. Thus this village, the subject of anthropologist Karen Kramer's study, affords a remarkable opportunity for understanding the economics of childhood in a pre-modern agricultural setting. Drawing on a range of theoretical perspectives and extensive data gathered over many years, Kramer interprets the form, value, and consequences of children's labor in this maizebased culture. She looks directly at family size and birth spacing as they figure in the economics of families; and she considers the timing of children's economic contributions and their role in underwriting the cost of large families. Kramer's findings - in particular, that the children of Xculoc begin to produce more than they consume long before they marry and leave home - have a number of interesting implications for the study of family reproductive decisions and parent-offspring conflict, and for debates within anthropology over children's contributions in hunter/gatherer versus agricultural societies. With its theoretical breadth, and its detail on crop yields, reproductive histories, diet, work scheduling, and agricultural production, this book sets a new standard for measuring and interpreting child productivity in a subsistence farming community.

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  • Hardback | 272 pages
  • 162.6 x 236.2 x 27.9mm | 589.68g
  • Cambridge, MassUnited States
  • English
  • New.
  • 22 halftones, 21 line illustrations, 3 maps, 29 tables
  • 0674016904
  • 9780674016903

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Parents in industrialized settings hardly need to be told how economically irrational having children can be. But Maya Children: Helpers at the Farm suggests that large families may not make sense even in societies engaged in subsistence agriculture, except for one significant factor. Children help parents, and particularly mothers, deal with the multiple challenges associated with raising multiple dependents simultaneously during the uniquely lengthy period of human parental support, ranging up to two decades...Kramer's study is an admirable effort to both measure and assess children's help. While any such measures are imprecise, the conclusions drawn seem both reasonable and worthy of further replication. Methodologically and theoretically, it suggests that while children's activities may be hard to record, or even invisible, their mercurial nature hardly connotes insignificance. -- James Loucky American Journal of Human Biology

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About Karen L. Kramer

Karen L. Kramer is Associate Professor of Human Evolutionary Biology, at Harvard University.

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