Behavior Genetics

, Volume 45, Issue 1, pp 71–83 | Cite as

Genotype × Cohort Interaction on Completed Fertility and Age at First Birth

  • Daniel A. BrileyEmail author
  • K. Paige Harden
  • Elliot M. Tucker-Drob
Original Research


Microevolutionary projections use empirical estimates of genetic covariation between physical or psychological phenotypes and reproductive success to forecast changes in the population distributions of those phenotypes over time. The validity of these projections depends on relatively consistent heritabilities of fertility-relevant outcomes and consistent genetic covariation between fertility and other physical or psychological phenotypes across generations. However, well-documented, rapidly changing mean trends in the level and timing of fertility may have been accompanied by differences in the genetic mechanisms of fertility. Using a sample of 933 adult twin pairs from the Midlife Development in the United States study, we demonstrate that genetic influences on completed fertility and age at first birth were trivial for the 1920–1935 birth cohort, but rose substantially for the 1936–1955 birth cohort. For the 1956–1970 birth cohort, genetic influences on completed fertility, but not age at first birth, persisted. Because the heritability of fertility is subject to change dynamically with the social context, it is difficult to project selection pressures or the rate at which selection will occur.


Fertility Age at first birth Selection Quantitative genetics Second demographic transition 



Elliot Tucker-Drob was supported by National Institutes of Health (NIH) research Grant R21HD069772. Daniel A. Briley was supported by NIH training grant T32HD007081. The Population Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin is supported by NIH center Grant R24HD042849.

Conflict of interest

Daniel A. Briley, K. Paige Harden and Elliot M. Tucker-Drob declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

The MIDUS was approved by the institutional review boards of the University of Wisconsin and the Harvard Medical School. All participants provided informed consent before taking part in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel A. Briley
    • 1
    Email author
  • K. Paige Harden
    • 1
  • Elliot M. Tucker-Drob
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychology and Population Research CenterUniversity of Texas at AustinAustinUSA

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