Darcia F. Narvaez Ph.D.

Darcia Narvaez, Ph.D., is a Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Notre Dame. For a list of links to prior blogs, go HERE (most on parenting, child development or morality). For a list of podcasts and interviews, go here or to Youtube playlist. Her prior careers include professional musician, classroom music teacher, business owner, seminarian and middle school Spanish teacher. Dr. Narvaez’s current research explores how early life experience influences societal culture, wellbeing and sociomoral character in children and adults. She integrates neurobiological, clinical, developmental and education sciences in her theories and research about human nature and human development. She publishes extensively on moral development, parenting and education. Recently she has been studying the Evolved Nest and how it influences wellbeing, sociality and morality. She hosts interdisciplinary conferences at the University of Notre Dame regarding early experience and human development (the talks and/or powerpoints are available online).  In 2016, she organized a conference on Sustainable Wisdom: Integrating Indigenous KnowHow for Global Flourishing (talks available online). She is the author or editor of numerous books and articles (downloadable from her website). She is an advisory board member of Attachment Parenting International, the Association for Pre- and Perinatal Psychology and Health. and Kindred Media. Her recent book, Neurobiology and the Development of Human Morality: Evolution, Culture and Wisdom (2014), won the 2015 William James Book Award from the American Psychological Association and the 2017 Expanded Reason Award. She is former executive editor of the Journal of Moral Education.

Here is information about her basic assumptions.

WHEN I WRITE ABOUT HUMAN NATURE, I use the 99% of human genus history as a baseline. That is the context of small-band hunter-gatherers. These are “immediate-return” societies with few possessions who migrate and forage. They have no hierarchy or coercion and value generosity and sharing. They exhibit both high autonomy and high commitment to the group. They have high social wellbeing. See comparison between dominant Western culture and this evolved heritage in my article (you can download from my website):

Narvaez, D. (2013). The 99 Percent—Development and socialization within an evolutionary context: Growing up to become “A good and useful human being.” In D. Fry (Ed.), War, Peace and Human Nature: The convergence of Evolutionary and Cultural Views (pp. 643-672).  New York: Oxford University Press.

WHEN I WRITE ABOUT PARENTING, I assume the importance of the Evolved Nest or evolved developmental niche (EDN) for raising human infants (which initially arose over 30 million years ago with the emergence of the social mammals and has been slightly altered among human groups based on anthropological research).

The EDN is the baseline I use to examine what fosters optimal human health, wellbeing and compassionate morality. The niche includes at least the following: infant-initiated breastfeeding for several years, nearly constant touch early, responsiveness to needs to avoid distressing a baby, playful companionship with multi-aged playmates, multiple adult caregivers, positive social support, and soothing perinatal experiences.

All EDN characteristics are linked to health in mammalian and human studies (for reviews, see Narvaez, Panksepp, Schore & Gleason, 2013; Narvaez, Valentino, Fuentes, McKenna & Gray, 2014; Narvaez, 2014) Thus, shifts away from the EDN baseline are risky and must be supported with longitudinal data looking at multiple aspects of psychosocial and neurobiological wellbeing in children and adults. My comments and posts stem from these basic assumptions.

My research laboratory has documented the importance of the EDN for child wellbeing and moral development with more papers in the works (see my Website to download papers):

Narvaez, D., Gleason, T., Wang, L., Brooks, J., Lefever, J., Cheng, A., & Centers for the Prevention of Child Neglect (2013). The Evolved Development Niche: Longitudinal Effects of Caregiving Practices on Early Childhood Psychosocial Development. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 28 (4), 759–773. Doi: 10.1016/j.ecresq.2013.07.003

Narvaez, D., Wang, L., Gleason, T., Cheng, A., Lefever, J., & Deng, L.  (2013). The Evolved Developmental Niche and sociomoral outcomes in Chinese three-year-olds. European Journal of Developmental Psychology, 10(2), 106-127.

We also have a paper that addresses adult effects:

Narvaez, D., Wang, L, & Cheng, A. (2016). Evolved Developmental Niche History: Relation to adult psychopathology and morality. Applied Developmental Science, 4, 294-309. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10888691.2015.1128835

See these for theoretical reviews:

Narvaez, D., Gettler, L., Braungart-Rieker, J., Miller-Graff, L., & Hastings, P.  (2016). The flourishing of young Children: Evolutionary baselines. In Narvaez, D., Braungart-Rieker, J., Miller, L., Gettler, L., & Harris, P. (Eds.), Contexts for young child flourishing: Evolution, family and society (pp. 3-27). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Narvaez, D., Hastings, P., Braungart-Rieker, J., Miller, L., & Gettler, L. (2016). Young child flourishing as an aim for society. In Narvaez, D., Braungart-Rieker, J., Miller, L., Gettler, L., & Hastings, P. (Eds.), Contexts for young child flourishing: Evolution, family and society (pp. 347-359). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Author of

Moral Landscapes

I write typically about research findings related to moral functioning and living a good life. Sometimes I muse on things that I puzzle about (politics). I am very concerned about how much our society doesn't seem to know about how to raise good, healthy and happy children, so I spend a great deal of time on parenting. I also write about things that I am working on myself--the endless quest for virtue! This is an opinion blog, not a set of research articles, intended for the public not scientists. For more nuanced and highly referenced work, look at my academic work.

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