It Takes A Village

A common definition includes an adult mother and father and the children to whom they are biologically related. However, more than 50% of the children in the United States do not come from ‘traditional families.’ In those families, parents must work together to co-parent their children to promote their child’s healthy development.

‘It takes a village to raise a child” is a common African proverb which essentially states that the efforts of raising a child are communal and not solely that of the parents. This is true. Children are deeply influenced not only by their parents, but also by other adults in their community, including, grandparents, step-parents, neighbors, teachers, church leaders, doctors, and the like.

Co-parenting, not only with your child’s biological parent but with other influential adults in your community is one way to aid in the healthy development of your child.

In ancient hunter-gather societies, anthropologists have concluded that communities’ men and women would raise children as if the children were fathered by multiple adult males. This type of structure is known as partible paternity. Anthropologists, Stephen Beckerman and Paul Valentine explain that the notion of “partible paternity is an ancient folk belief capable of supporting effective families, families that provide satisfactory paternal care of children and manage the successful rearing of children to adulthood.” Cultures of Multiple Fathers: The Theory and Practice of Partible Paternity in Lowland South America (2002) P 6.  Anthropologists have calculated that children raised by multiple fathers had a significantly higher chance of surviving into adulthood than those of children in the same societies with just one recognized father. Id.

The above anthological conclusions make since when considering that men in hunter-gather communities would hunt for food while the women would rear children. If a man had a fatherly bond to more than just their biological children, their incentive to feed and provide for children would increase, thus increasing a child’s chances of surviving into adulthood. Reproducing and nurturing our offspring to reproductive age is one of our most basic human instincts.

In today’s society, the notion of ‘it takes a village’ has faced criticism with people arguing that it takes only a mother and father. However, many families do not adhere to the ‘traditional family’ model, and thus, must work together with all the adults who care for children to ensure the healthy development of youth.

In some situations, it is not practical for a biological parent to be a part of a child’s life. Utah has a set of factors to consider when awarding sole custody to a party. However, if there is no substantiated reason for a biological parent to be kept from the rearing of a child, the obligation of co-parenting is essential to the healthy development of a child.

There are many societies and languages where the terms for ‘mom’ and ‘dad’ are used to refer to all the adult males and females in the community. This type of respect and unity in the family structure perpetuates the proverb ‘it takes a village to raise a child.’

While custody and parent time are legitimate legal issues which can require legal intervention. In a majority of cases, the ultimate goal of the legal proceedings for custody and parent time is to determine an appropriate parent time schedule and put policies in place which foster the positive co-parenting relationship between the parties.