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Hum Nat. 2002 Dec;13(4):457-72. doi: 10.1007/s12110-002-1003-8.

Girl helpers and time allocation of nursing women among the Toba of Argentina.

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Department of Anthropology, Harvard University, 02138, Cambridge, MA.
Department of Anthropology, Harvard University, 02138, Cambridge, MA.


In this paper we outline the activities of young girls in a Toba community of northern Argentina and examine the effect of girl helpers on time allocation of nursing women. Activity budgets were obtained for 41 girls aged 3 to 15 using spot observations. Girls spent substantial portions of observations engaged in helping behaviors. Individual values varied with age, anthropometric characteristics, and birth order. Activity budgets of 21 nursing women were obtained through focal observation sessions. Women living in households with girls aged 7 to 15 allocated 17% less time to domestic work and 9% more time to socializing during afternoon observation sessions. For nursing women in this community, direct childcare (provided by the infant's own mother) seemed to be a priority. Living with a girl helper did not have any measurable effect on the frequency or duration of nursing, or on the time that women spent caring for their infants. Based on these findings, hypotheses are outlined for future work on the effect of girl helpers on women's fertility.


Allomothering; Childcare; Helper at the nest; Time allocation; Toba


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