Cookies?
Library Header Image
LSE Theses Online London School of Economics web site

Plasticity, life history and inclusive fitness: an evolutionary demography perspective on individual variation in fertility and fertility preferences in contemporary Britain

Mathews, Paul Samuel (2012) Plasticity, life history and inclusive fitness: an evolutionary demography perspective on individual variation in fertility and fertility preferences in contemporary Britain. PhD thesis, The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

[img]
Preview
PDF
Download (1MB) | Preview

Abstract

This thesis consists of three papers that explore variation in individual fertility and fertility preference. The setting for all three papers is the contemporary UK, though the conclusions have utility for a general understanding of human fertility. All three papers are motivated by theories arising from evolutionary biology, principally inclusive fitness theory and life history theory. The first two papers investigate actualised fertility and whether patterns of fertility in contemporary Britain are consistent with inclusive fitness theory. Both papers conduct secondary data analysis of the British Household Panel Study. Inclusive fitness theory predicts that because relatives share genes an individual may obtain fitness benefits by increasing the reproduction of a relative. Results support this hypothesis showing that for contemporary British women kin having more opportunities to influence reproductive decision-making is associated with pro-fitness fertility outcomes. In the first paper I find kin accelerate the transition to first birth, and the second paper shows kin also accelerate the transition to second birth. The final paper tests a different hypothesis derived from evolutionary theory. Life history theory predicts that reproductive strategy should have ‘plasticity’ and be liable to alter as perceived environmental risk changes. This paper uses primary data collected from University students using an internet experiment and finds that priming respondents using preceding questions on mortality does alter reported fertility preferences, though the effects depend upon the priming, fertility preference measure and the sex of the respondent. The paper also has methodological relevance as it demonstrates the potential for ‘context effects’ from preceding questions to influence the reporting of fertility preferences. All three papers present evidence that the incorporation of theories from evolutionary biology have utility in the understanding of contemporary fertility patterns and processes.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2012 Paul Samuel Mathews
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
Sets: Departments > Social Policy
Supervisor: Sear, Rebecca and Sigle-Rushton, Wendy
URI: http://etheses.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/438

Actions (login required)

Record administration - authorised staff only Record administration - authorised staff only

Downloads

Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics