Neurotic women and social men have more babies


Believe it or not, a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveals the scientific interest and relevance of discovering the personality traits of the most reproductively successful persons.

It seems obvious, but it really is fascinating stuff. Personality traits are being studied more to understand determinants of fertility patterns (who is attracting to whom and are they successfully reproducing) and how personality traits are maintained by natural selection (what traits are they reproducing and does nature maintain a balance of personality traits in spite of the parental predisposition). These types of studies have been conducted mostly in modern Western or Westernized populations where birth control, education and media influence behavior. This latest study was done in a more “traditional” environment: four villages in rural Senegal.

The researchers based their study on the Big Five personality traits. They are Openness (sometimes called Intellect), Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism. These are pretty much self-explanatory.

What they found was that women with higher levels of Neuroticism had 12% more children than women with lower levels. They discovered as well that higher social status of these women also increased birth probability. Interestingly, there is a negative health association with the babies they have. Most of these babies are born with low birth weight which may be an indication of malnutrition or delinquent prenatal care. Men with above average levels of Extroversion had 14% more children than the men with lower levels.

Dr. Virpi Lummaa, from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, said, “Our results show that personality predicts family size differently in men and women. . . Gaining understanding of such individual-level determinants of reproductive decisions helps in the current debate on the role of individual versus social factors in explaining recent fertility changes around the world.”

So to recap: The most popular guys are procreating with the most high maintenance women. Sounds like the Senegalese equivalent of the high school quarterback and the head cheerleader. They really needed a study for this?

Source: University of Sheffield, Medical News Today


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