Library Header Image
LSE Research Online LSE Library Services

The effects of kin on female fertility in rural Gambia

Sear, Rebecca, Mace, Ruth and McGregor, Ian A. (2003) The effects of kin on female fertility in rural Gambia. Evolution and Human Behavior, 24 (1). pp. 25-42. ISSN 1090-5138

Download (292kB) | Preview
Identification Number: 10.1016/S1090-5138(02)00105-8


Human females reproduce relatively rapidly throughout their reproductive years compared to the other great apes. It has been suggested that women are able to sustain this rapid pace by co-opting family members to help raise their children. We tested the hypothesis that the presence of kin will increase the reproductive rates of women using a longitudinal database collected from rural Gambia. We found that both the husband's mother and, to a lesser extent, the husband's father increased the probability that a woman would give birth. A woman's parents, however, had no effect on her fertility rate, nor did her elder sisters or co-wives. The presence of a woman's elder brothers even decreased her probability of giving birth. There was no evidence that elder children acted as 'helpers at the nest', as the existence of living elder children slowed down rather than increased birth rates. We suggest that the increased fertility in the presence of mothers-in-law may be due to these women helping out their daughters-in-law with domestic and subsistence duties. Given that it is paternal, rather than maternal, relatives who increase fertility, social pressures on women from older kin to bear many children may also be important.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: Published 2003 © Elsevier. LSE has developed LSE Research Online so that users may access research output of the School. Copyright © and Moral Rights for the papers on this site are retained by the individual authors and/or other copyright owners. Users may download and/or print one copy of any article(s) in LSE Research Online to facilitate their private study or for non-commercial research. You may not engage in further distribution of the material or use it for any profit-making activities or any commercial gain. You may freely distribute the URL ( of the LSE Research Online website.
Divisions: LSE
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
Date Deposited: 21 Mar 2006
Last Modified: 16 May 2024 00:09

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics