Edited by Steven A. Peterson and Albert Somit
Chapter 25: The ties that bind: policy implications of evolutionary and developmental perspectives on women and their children’s reproductive strategies
Women’s lives – their social relationships, environments and access to resources – have a significant impact on their children’s development, health and future reproductive strategies. With insights from evolutionary theory, researchers have found that stressful or supportive family and extra-familial environments influence a family’s dynamics, the child’s emotional and behavioral development, and eventually a child’s own reproductive strategy. Individuals can develop either a fast or slow reproductive strategy depending on the stress, harshness and unpredictability of the environment. If a child experiences harsh and unpredictable environments, his/her attachments will be insecure, leading to earlier sexual behavior and a faster reproductive strategy. A fast reproductive strategy is adaptive in environments that are dangerous or have limited resources, so it is more beneficial to pursue early reproduction since his/her life span may be limited. If a child experiences a safe and predictable environment, he/she will be more likely to choose a slower reproductive strategy. An evolutionary perspective sees both supportive and stressful environments as part of human history, and that human developmental systems respond adaptively to both environmental contexts. This research has policy implications for public health and education policy as it provides new insights into the development of disease, behaviors and reproductive strategies.
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