Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS:
Title: Plasticity, life history and inclusive fitness : an evolutionary demography perspective on individual variation in fertility and fertility preferences in contemporary Britain
Author: Mathews, Paul Samuel
Awarding Body: London School of Economics and Political Science (University of London)
Current Institution: London School of Economics and Political Science (University of London)
Date of Award: 2012
Availability of Full Text:
Access from EThOS:
Access from Institution:
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.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: HQ The family. Marriage. Woman ; HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology