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date: 25 February 2021

Abstract and Keywords

It is clear that societies differ with respect to their locally constructed, cultural, or ‘folk’ models of the life course. However, predictable transitions can be found as children progress through naturally occurring stages (walking, talking, gaining sense, puberty). Societies draw upon these predictable transitions to construct models of development. Ethnographic and historic records provide evidence of behavioural changes in children and the response of family members that signal a shift in the child’s status. Drawing on these data, we construct a broadly applicable cultural model of child development. This model coalesces around six life cycle stages, which correspond to evolutionary biologists’ analyses. This entry draws on a long-term project designed to develop an anthropological perspective on human development. Our database consists of archival accounts of childhood from nearly 1,000 societies, ranging from the Palaeolithic to the present and from every area of the world.

Keywords: anthropology, ethnography, life course, development, life stages, childhood, development

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