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Family and Fertility: Kin Influence on the Progression to a Second Birth in the British Household Panel Study

Public Library of Science
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  • Anthropology
  • Communication
  • Economics


Particular features of human female life history, such as short birth intervals and the early cessation of female reproduction (menopause), are argued to be evidence that humans are 'cooperative breeders', with a reproductive strategy adapted to conditions where mothers receive substantial assistance in childraising. Evolutionary anthropologists have so far largely focussed on measuring the influence of kin on reproduction in natural fertility populations. Here we look at the effect in a present-day low-fertility population, by analysing whether kin affect parity progression in the British Household Panel Study. Two explanatory variables related to kin influence significantly increase the odds of a female having a second birth: i) having relatives who provide childcare and ii) having a larger number of frequently contacted and emotionally close relatives. Both effects were measured subject to numerous socio-economic controls and appear to be independent of one another. We therefore conclude that kin may influence the progression to a second birth. This influence is possibly due to two proximate mechanisms: kin priming through communication and kin assistance with childcare.

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