AGE AND FERTILITY

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“Use it or lose it,” according to researchers at the University of Sheffield. They are actually studying past marriage patterns in order to illustrate how the evolution of age-patterns in fertility.

Duncan Gillespie, Dr. Virpi Lummaa and Dr. Andrew Russell, from the University’s Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, went as far back as 18th and 19th century Finnish marriage and birth records from churches to check out the patterns. During those centuries, virtually everyone got married and divorce was unheard of. They chose 1,591 women to study.

Women from 30-35 years old were the most likely to be married. Younger women tended to marry wealthier men giving them a child bearing advantage but also the vulnerability of becoming a widow. Once widowed with a significant number of children, the likelihood of remarriage dropped and childbearing in advanced years was not likely.

Today it’s been turned around. Women are marrying later and having children later. Casual relationships producing children and divorce are common. There is a thought that the natural selection process could grow for older women improving their chances of bearing children later in life. Of course, these changes would happen over multiple generations.

“In today’s society, family-building appears to be increasingly postponed to older ages, when relatively few women in our evolutionary past would have had the opportunity to reproduce. As a result, this could lead to future evolutionary improvements in old-age female fertility,” said Gillespie.

Source: University of Sheffield, Science Daily


 
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