• children's economic value;
  • reproductive strategies;
  • human juvenility;
  • maternal tradeoffs;
  • natural fertility populations;
  • human life history;
  • human subsistence ecology;
  • Maya


Because children's ability to support themselves falls below their consumption, human young are subsidized by others throughout much of their growth and development. Mothers, however, who often have multiple dependents of different ages, are faced with an allocation problem (Fig. 1). This has led to important debate about the evolution of a long period dependence and the development of nonmaternal strategies to provision young. This article focuses on the critical role that children themselves play. Because the human subsistence niche incorporates a broad diversity of resources that require variable procurement and processing costs, dependent children can also be important producers, furthering both a need and an opportunity for cooperative breeding.