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The evolutionary ecology of human family size

Mace, R; (2012) The evolutionary ecology of human family size. In: Oxford Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology.

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© Oxford University Press, 2007. All rights reserved. The concentration of reproduction into the central portion of the lifespan means that motherhood involves the expenditure of a great deal of energy. The most likely explanation for how human females achieve this rapid reproduction is with the help of mates and kin. The early termination of reproduction could be an adaptation either to complete the lengthy, child-rearing process without risking early death through maternal mortality, and/or to help daughters with their reproductive careers. Different strategies for optimal reproductive scheduling, and how they depend on the resources available, can be modelled formally using state-dependent optimality theory. However, as the net food supply had not increased and family sizes had increased, childhood malnutrition also went up. This may be a counter-intuitive result for those in the business of supplying much-needed infrastructural development in such areas, but one that can be understood in the light of optimal reproductive scheduling in a natural fertility population.

Type: Book chapter
Title: The evolutionary ecology of human family size
ISBN-13: 9780191743658
DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780198568308.013.0026
UCL classification: UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/72946
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