Environmental Contingency in Life History Strategies: The Influence of Mortality and Socioeconomic Status on Reproductive Timing

Vladas Griskevicius, Andrew W. Delton, Theresa E. Robertson, Joshua M. Tybur

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

224 Scopus citations

Abstract

Why do some people have children early, whereas others delay reproduction? By considering the trade-offs between using one's resources for reproduction versus other tasks, the evolutionary framework of life history theory predicts that reproductive timing should be influenced by mortality and resource scarcity. A series of experiments examined how mortality cues influenced the desire to have children sooner rather than later. The effects of mortality depended critically on whether people grew up in a relatively resource-scarce or resource-plentiful environment. For individuals growing up relatively poor, mortality cues produced a desire to reproduce sooner-to want children now, even at the cost of furthering one's education or career. Conversely, for individuals growing up relatively wealthy, mortality cues produced a desire to delay reproduction-to further one's education or career before starting a family. Overall, mortality cues appear to shift individuals into different life history strategies as a function of childhood socioeconomic status, suggesting important implications for how environmental factors can influence fertility and family size.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)241-254
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Volume100
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2011

Keywords

  • Childhood development
  • Life history theory
  • Mortality
  • Reproductive timing
  • Socioeconomic status

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