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Human Nature

, Volume 11, Issue 4, pp 307–333 | Cite as

The life histories of American stepfathers in evolutionary perspective

  • Kermyt G. AndersonEmail author
Article

Abstract

This paper presents an analysis of the characteristics of men who become stepfathers, and their subsequent fertility patterns and lifetime reproductive success. Because women who already have children are ranked lower in the marriage market than women without children, men who marry women with children (e.g., stepfathers) are likely to have lower rankings in the marriage market as well. Using retrospective fertility and marital histories from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID), I show that men who become stepfathers have lower levels of education, less income, and are more likely to have been divorced before and to already have children, all characteristics that lower their rankings in the marriage market. Men with one or two stepchildren are just as likely to have children within a marriage as non-stepfathers, although men with three stepchildren show decreased fertility. Among men age 45 and older, stepfathers have lower lifetime fertility than non-stepfathers, although the difference disappears when men’s age at first marriage is controlled for. Additionally, stepfathers have significantly higher fertility than men who never marry. The results suggest that some men become stepfathers to procure mates and fertility benefits that they would otherwise have been unlikely to obtain; for these men, raising other men’s children serves as a form of mating effort.

Key words

Fertility Marriage market Mating effort Panel Study of Income Dynamics Stepfathers 

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Copyright information

© Walter de Gruyter, Inc 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Population Studies Center, Institute for Social ResearchUniversity of MichiganAnn Arbor

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