Family matters: intergenerational influences on fertility
The influences on family size are complex and of vital importance for population growth across the world. This project is based on the idea that humans are 'cooperative breeders', with support from relatives being vital to women in determining how many children to have.
An interdisciplinary approach is to be used, involving demography, evolutionary biology and anthropology, to test the idea that intergenerational influences are important determinants of fertility. Different measures of fertility include the age of the mother at first birth, the gaps between births and the total number of children the mother has.
There will be statistical analysis of data from across the world, from both developed and developing countries. Data will be from an extensive and varied range of sources: large scale standard collections of data, demographic and health surveys; and small-scale anthropological data sets collected for specific anthropological projects. Some of the datasets will be historical, possibly going as far back as the 18th century, with sources including church records (particularly in the UK) and tax records (commonly used, for example, in Asia).
Many confounding factors will have to be taken into account, such as access to contraception. The attitudes or actions of kin also vary: in some societies or socio-economic groups there is pressure to produce children, in others there is pressure to delay having families.
This use of such a wide range of data, from both large scale and small scale sources, along with the world-wide, cross-cultural nature of the work, should allow a rich picture to develop of the key evolutionary influences of the family on global fertility.
Wolfson fellows: Dr Rebecca Sear
Other Durham University researchers: PhD student and postdoctoral researchers to be appointed
Funder: European Research Council Starting Grant
Keywords: effects of kin on fertility, demography, anthropology, evolutionary biology, global comparison, interdisciplinary.