Does Sexual Conflict between Mother and Father Lead to Fertility Decline?
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- Morita, M., Ohtsuki, H. & Hiraiwa-Hasegawa, M. Hum Nat (2016) 27: 201. doi:10.1007/s12110-016-9254-y
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Fertility decline is a great challenge to evolutionary approaches to human behavior. In this study, we apply the perspective of sexual conflict between mother and father to the fertility decline. We predict that, under serial monogamy allowing for mate changes, the ideal number of children for women should be smaller than that for men, because the cost of reproduction for women should be higher than that for men. Our reasoning is that if the cost of child-bearing and child-rearing is higher for women than men, and if women, who therefore would want a smaller number of children than their husbands, have gained more power in reproductive decision-making within a couple owing to the modernization of society, fertility should decline. Until now, few evolutionary studies have analyzed empirical data in modern developed societies with such a perspective. Our questionnaire survey in an urban area in Japan revealed that mothers did experience greater cost during childcare than fathers. However, in contrast to our prediction, we found no sex differences in the ideal number of children between mothers and their husbands in many cases. About 60% of parents remembered wanting two children when they were childless. Moreover, mothers and their husbands had equal power in their decision-making regarding having children. After presenting these results, we discuss some perspectives to advance our understanding of fertility decline in terms of sexual conflict.