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Abstract

Objectives:

We test two specific hypotheses that explain the cranial changes Boas observed in Hebrews and Sicilians, namely that Hebrew change results from abandoning cradling of infants in America, while in Sicilians it results from impaired growth in America.

Methods:

Boas's (1928) data were used to test these hypotheses. The role of cradling in cranial shape was examined by comparing cranial indices of U.S.-born and foreign children between 1.5 and 5 years of age. Age changes in cranial index of Hebrew and Sicilian children ages five to eighteen were examined to demonstrate differing patterns of age changes, which could be explained by environmental differences. Statistical methods employed were t-tests, least squares, and loess regression.

Results:

The difference between American and foreign-born Hebrew children arose prior to five years of age, after which it remained constant. American and foreign-born Sicilians, on the other hand, had similar cranial indices at age five, and diverged during the growing years, primarily because American-born children did not exhibit the reduction in cranial index with age seen in the other groups.

Conclusions:

The results support the two hypotheses tested. Change in Hebrew cranial indices resulted from abandoning the practice of cradling infants in America. U.S.-born Sicilian children experienced an environment worse than the one in Europe, and consequently experienced impaired growth. We conclude that the changes Boas observed resulted from specific behavioral and economic conditions unique to each group, rather than a homogeneous American environment. Am. J. Hum. Biol. 22:702-707, 2010. © 2010Wiley-Liss, Inc.