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Family Matters: Intergenerational Influences on Fertility

Objective

Why do people have children? Why do they have the number of children they do? These questions are of fundamental importance, but we do not yet have satisfactory answers. I propose to bring an interdisciplinary perspective, involving demography, evolutionary biology, anthropology and psychology, to bear on this topic. The aim is to test the hypothesis that intergenerational influences are important determinants of fertility, from fertility intentions to timing of births to number of children. The theoretical rationale derives from a hypothesis emerging from evolutionary biology that humans are cooperative breeders : mothers need help from others to raise children, because human children are too costly for mothers to raise alone. The support of relatives, particularly intergenerational support, is thus vital to women in determining how many children they have. If so, there is a major gap in our understanding of fertility, since such influences have not been systematically studied. This aim will be achieved using rigorous, empirical methods to analyse data from all world regions, and to use novel methods for collecting new data on fertility. The key to this project is its holistic comparative nature. The ultimate goal will be a novel comparative analysis of data from the full gamut of human societies, from small-scale traditional societies through historical populations to contemporary nations surveyed through large-scale surveys. This will allow us to go beyond simply documenting kin influences, and to understand why particular kin matter under which circumstances. Such a comparative approach has not been used before but is vital if we are to fully understand why fertility varies. This will significantly advance understanding of fertility, and promote interdisciplinary research.

Field of science

  • /social sciences/sociology/anthropology
  • /social sciences/sociology/demography/fertility
  • /social sciences/sociology/demography
  • /natural sciences/biological sciences/evolutionary biology
  • /social sciences/psychology

Call for proposal

ERC-2010-StG_20091209
See other projects for this call

Funding Scheme

ERC-SG - ERC Starting Grant

Host institution

LONDON SCHOOL OF HYGIENE AND TROPICAL MEDICINE ROYAL CHARTER
Address
Keppel Street
WC1E 7HT London
United Kingdom
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 799 998
Principal investigator
Rebecca Sear (Dr.)
Administrative Contact
Michael Robinson (Mr.)

Beneficiaries (2)

LONDON SCHOOL OF HYGIENE AND TROPICAL MEDICINE ROYAL CHARTER
United Kingdom
EU contribution
€ 799 998
Address
Keppel Street
WC1E 7HT London
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Principal investigator
Rebecca Sear (Dr.)
Administrative Contact
Michael Robinson (Mr.)
UNIVERSITY OF DURHAM

Participation ended

United Kingdom
Address
Stockton Road The Palatine Centre
DH1 3LE Durham
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Administrative Contact
Wendy Harle (Ms.)