Human Nature

, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 23–43 | Cite as

Intergenerational Transmission of Reproductive Traits in Spain during the Demographic Transition

  • David Sven Reher
  • José Antonio Ortega
  • Alberto Sanz-Gimeno


In this paper intergenerational dimensions of reproductive behavior are studied within the context of the experience of a mid-sized Spanish town just before and during the demographic transition. Different indicators of reproduction are used in bivariate and multivariate approaches. Fertility shows a small, often statistically significant intergenerational dimension, with stronger effects working through women and their mothers than those stemming from the families of their husbands. These effects are materialized mainly through duration-related fertility variables, are singularly absent for variables such as age at first birth or birth intervals, and are much stronger in the case of firstborn daughters than with later siblings. There is a substantial increase in the strength of intergenerational effects during the course of the demographic transition, most visible in age at last birth and duration of reproduction (between women and their mothers), as well as in the effects working through the families of their husbands. These results underscore the on-going importance of biological dimensions of reproduction as well as the way attitudes toward reproduction are taught within the family. The changes identified in this study suggest that the transmission of values and attitudes became more important for reproductive outcomes during this period of demographic modernization.


Demographic transition Fertility Evolutionary theory Spain Intergenerational transmission Reproductive traits 



Research for this paper received funding from the Fundación Banco Bilbao Vizcaya (BBVA) [BBVA02–11562] and from the Comunidad Autónoma de Madrid [06/0105/97, 06/0070/98, 06/0046/2000, 06/0180/2001, 06/0033/2002]. We have benefited from the helpful suggestions of Mike Murphy, Alan Bittles, Geri Mineau, Fernando González Quiñones, and the participants in the Menorca Seminar in 2005. We would also like to thank María Isabel Sánchez Domínguez for her help in different aspects of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Sven Reher
    • 1
  • José Antonio Ortega
    • 2
  • Alberto Sanz-Gimeno
    • 1
  1. 1.Grupo de Estudios Población y Sociedad [GEPS], Facultad de Ciencias Políticas y SociologíaUniversidad Complutense de MadridMadridSpain
  2. 2.Population Division (Fertility and Family Planning Section), United NationsNew YorkUSA

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