Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group

The Tending Instinct

Women, Men, and the Biology of Nurturing

Shelley E. Taylor

Times Books


An epiphany in science is fairly rare, but when it happens, there is no sensation like it. The sudden recognition that all of the classic theories of stress were based almost entirely on males was as stunning as being hit over the head with a club. I remember thinking, "I didn't know there were any big mistakes left in science." We all stared at each other as the opportunity that lay before us became clear: a chance to start from scratch and discover what women do in response to stress.

Females of all species, including humans, have been the primary caretakers of offspring, and so it stands to reason that their responses to stress would have evolved so as to include some measure of protection for their children. From our research with humans, we knew that women turn to the social group in times of stress, and so we looked for patterns of "befriending." By the end of one especially spirited evening, we had spawned the title . . . "tend and befriend."