. "7. An Evolutionary and Ecological Analysis of Human Fertility, Mating Patterns, and Parental Investment." Offspring: Human Fertility Behavior in Biodemographic Perspective. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2003.
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Offspring: Human Fertility Behavior in Biodemographic Perspective
extent are differences in selectivity of partner choice, relationship fidelity, willingness to invest in children after marital separation, and willingness to invest in stepchildren associated with developmental experience?
In a similar vein, it would be useful to investigate how information is evaluated and how those processes of evaluation affect the diffusion of information and behavioral changes through networks and communities (see Bock, 1999, for a discussion). How do people evaluate messages about breast-feeding or the risks associated with teen pregnancy? For example, do they simply weight messages by their frequency of occurrence, according to the prestige of the source, or according to some perceived relevance to their own individual situation? Do people actively choose to participate in networks or expose themselves to media that increase or decrease the likelihood of receiving different messages?
In terms of the interaction of those decision-making processes with socioecological/socioeconomic conditions, the major research implication is that micro-level studies of budgetary allocations and fertility should be designed in terms of their contribution to an integrated and general theory. An integrated theory in this sense does not imply a unicausal model of transitions (such as mortality change, economic development, or access to birth control), but rather an understanding of how constellations of factors jointly determine outcomes through their impacts on an organized response system.
The framework introduced here is designed to provide guidance for such research. It will be critical to analyze and measure how resources are acquired, the impacts of investments on resource acquisition, mortality rates and the impacts of investments on mortality, complementarity of male and female inputs, and variation among and within individuals over time in access to resources.
There is still much to be learned from the study of traditional societies. While the impacts of breast-feeding frequency and intensity on reproductive physiology have received considerable attention, the factors determining their patterning have not been systematically investigated but rather relegated to unexplained cultural differences. What determines the timing of solid food introduction, the duration of breast-feeding, and its diurnal rhythm, both across and within cultures? To what extent do features of the ecology in terms of work, child care, and food resources explain the cross-cultural variation? To what extent does its patterning respond to the individual condition of mother or baby within communities? Is it the baby’s or the mother’s behavior that exerts the most influence over the process? Similar questions can be asked of the regulation of work and food sharing with children and adolescents. Such microecological studies should provide insights into the evolved psychology underlying parent-offspring interactions and how ecology translates into varying demographic outcomes.
Another important research area in traditional societies is the study of