Are poly parents “alloparents”?

In Sarah Blaffer Hrdy's book, Mothers and Others: The Evolutionary Origins of Mutual Understanding, the anthropological term "alloparent" is used to describe a caregiver who is not a biological parent. According to Hrdy's theory, infants learn to read the emotional experiences of others by interacting with alloparents.

In a very thought-provoking blog post, Valerie White wonders if Hrdy's theory of "alloparents" can apply to parents in poly relationships. She was so intrigued by the idea that she wrote to Hrdy.

Dr Hrdy graciously replied, “I did not have polyamory in mind when I wrote Mothers and Others but you are right. Our worldviews (mine primarily derived from the ethnographic literature on “Pleistocene-appropriate” hunters and gatherers, yours from personal experiences and accounts of compatriots) seem remarkably compatible. Many thanks for sharing yours, Best wishes, Sarah.”

White recommends Mothers and Others to anyone looking for validation regarding polyamorous parenting. She also shares some personal stories about her triad's children.

My triad's twins are nearly nine years old. They’re healthy, funny, lively, affectionate, bright and secure. They know they have extra parents, and they feel blessed to have them. One of the twins, reading this over my shoulder, remarked, "Having extra parents means less babysitters."

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