Intergenerational conflicts may help explain parental absence effects on reproductive timing: a model of age at first birth in humans.


Moya, C; Sear, R; (2014) Intergenerational conflicts may help explain parental absence effects on reproductive timing: a model of age at first birth in humans. PeerJ, 2. e512. ISSN 2167-8359 DOI: https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.512

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Abstract

Background. Parental absences in childhood are often associated with accelerated reproductive maturity in humans. These results are counterintuitive for evolutionary social scientists because reductions in parental investment should be detrimental for offspring, but earlier reproduction is generally associated with higher fitness. In this paper we discuss a neglected hypothesis that early reproduction is often associated with parental absence because it decreases the average relatedness of a developing child to her future siblings. Family members often help each other reproduce, meaning that parents and offspring may find themselves in competition over reproductive opportunities. In these intergenerational negotiations offspring will have less incentive to help the remaining parent rear future half-siblings relative to beginning reproduction themselves. Method. We illustrate this "intergenerational conflict hypothesis" with a formal game-theoretic model. Results. We show that when resources constrain reproductive opportunities within the family, parents will generally win reproductive conflicts with their offspring, i.e., they will produce more children of their own and therefore delay existing offsprings' reproduction. This is due to the asymmetric relatedness between grandparents and grandchildren (r = .25), compared to siblings (r = 0.5), resulting in greater incentives for older siblings to help rear younger siblings than for grandparents to help rear grandchildren. However, if a parent loses or replaces their partner, the conflict between the parent and offspring becomes symmetric since half siblings are as related to one another as grandparents are to grandchildren. This means that the offspring stand to gain more from earlier reproduction when their remaining parent would produce half, rather than full, siblings. We further show that if parents senesce in a way that decreases the quality of their infant relative to their offspring's infant, the intergenerational conflict can shift to favor the younger generation.

Item Type: Article
Faculty and Department: Faculty of Epidemiology and Population Health > Dept of Population Health (2012- ) > Dept of Population Studies (1974-2012)
Faculty of Epidemiology and Population Health > Dept of Population Health (2012- )
Research Centre: Population Studies Group
PubMed ID: 25165627
Web of Science ID: 347617300003
URI: http://researchonline.lshtm.ac.uk/id/eprint/1910934

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