Volume 30 - Article 37 | Pages 1074–1096

When not to have another baby: An evolutionary approach to low fertility

By Ruth Mace

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Date received:18 Mar 2013
Date published:04 Apr 2014
Word count:5487
Keywords:behavioral ecology, child abuse, demographic transition, evolution, homosexuality, kin selection, low fertility, menopause, parental investment
Weblink:You will find all publications in this Special Collection “Theoretical Foundations of the Analysis of Fertility” at http://www.demographic-research.org/special/16/


Background: In this paper, I explain the theoretical foundations of fertility from the perspective of evolutionary demography and evolutionary anthropology.

Objective: My goal in this paper is to provide examples of how evolutionary demography is generating and testing new hypotheses about human fertility and parental behaviour.

Methods: To illustrate the paradigm of low fertility, I present several evolutionary explanations for reduced fertility, or no fertility at all. The explanations I cite are drawn from studies on child maltreatment, homosexual preference, post-demographic transition low fertility, and late-life low fertility (menopause), as these are phenomena that appear to challenge evolutionary approaches.

Conclusions: I find that the sophisticated tools of behavioural ecology and evolutionary anthropology and demography can do more than simply explain high fertility, and are currently being used to generate and test new hypotheses about fertility, including hypotheses that address the issue of low fertility.

Author's Affiliation

Ruth Mace - University College London (UCL), United Kingdom [Email]

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