Under pressure: human adolescents express a pace-of-life syndrome
The pace-of-life syndrome (POLS) hypothesis posits that life-history characteristics, among individual differences in behavior, and physiological traits have coevolved in response to environmental conditions. This hypothesis has generated much research interest because it provides testable predictions concerning the association between the slow-fast life-history continuum and behavioral and physiological traits. Although humans are among the most well-studied species and similar concepts exist in the human literature, the POLS hypothesis has not yet been directly applied to humans. Therefore, we aimed to (i) test predicted relationships between life history, physiology, and behavior in a human population and (ii) better integrate the POLS hypothesis with other similar concepts. Using data of a representative sample of German adolescents, we extracted maturation status for girls (menarche, n = 791) and boys (voice break, n = 486), and a set of health-related risk-taking behaviors and cardiovascular parameters. Maturation status and health-related risk behavior as well as maturation status and cardiovascular physiology covaried in boys and girls. Fast maturing boys and girls had higher blood pressure and expressed more risk-taking behavior than same-aged slow maturing boys and girls, supporting general predictions of the POLS hypothesis. Only some physiological and behavioral traits were positively correlated, suggesting that behavioral and physiological traits might mediate life-history trade-offs differently. Moreover, some aspects of POLS were sex-specific. Overall, the POLS hypothesis shares many similarities with other conceptual frameworks from the human literature and these concepts should be united more thoroughly to stimulate the study of POLS in humans and other animals.
The pace-of-life syndrome (POLS) hypothesis suggests that life history, behavioral and physiological traits have coevolved in response to environmental conditions. Here, we tested this link in a representative sample of German adolescents, using data from a large health survey (the KIGGs study) containing information on individual age and state of maturity for girls and boys, and a set of health-related risk-taking behaviors and cardiovascular parameters. We found that fast maturing girls and boys had overall higher blood pressure and expressed more risk-taking behavior than same-aged slow maturing girls and boys. Only some behavioral and physiological traits were positively correlated, suggesting that behavioral and physiological traits might mediate life-history trade-offs differently and not necessarily form a syndrome. Our results demonstrate a general link between life history, physiological and behavioral traits in humans, while simultaneously highlighting a more complex and rich set of relationships, since not all relationships followed predictions by the POLS hypothesis.
KeywordsAdolescence Humans Life history Menarche Physiology Risk taking
We thank all participants of the two workshops Towards a general theory of the pace-of-life syndrome, held in Hannover in 2015 and 2016, for inspiring discussions as well as the Volkswagen Stiftung (Az. 89905) for funding these workshops. We thank Marco Del Giudice, Denis Réale, Willem Frankenhuis and one anonymous reviewer as well as members of the Animal Ecology group at the University of Potsdam for providing constructive comments on earlier versions of the manuscript.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors. The KiGGS survey was reviewed and approved by the responsible ethics committee at the University Hospital of the Charité of the Humboldt University in Berlin.
- Bogin B (1999) Patterns of human growth. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
- Chen X, Wang Y, Mi J (2007) Tracking of blood pressure from childhood to adulthood: a systematic review and meta-analysis. FASEB J 21:A1363Google Scholar
- Dammhahn M, Dingemanse NJ, Niemelä P, Réale D (2018) Pace-of-life syndromes: a framework for the adaptive integration of behaviour, physiology and life-history. Behav Ecol Sociobiol. (in press)Google Scholar
- Del Giudice M, Belsky J (2011) The development of life history strategies: toward a multi-stage theory. In: Buss DM, Hawley PH (eds) The evolution of personality and individual differences. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 154–176Google Scholar
- Ellis BJ, Del Giudice M, Shirtcliff EA (2017) The adaptive calibration model of stress responsitivity: concepts, findings, and implications for developmental psychopathology. In: Beauchaine TP, Hinshaw SP (eds) Child and adolescent psychopathology, 3rd edn. Wiley & Sons, New York, pp 237–276Google Scholar
- Eveleth PB, Tanner JM (1990) Worldwide variation in human growth. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
- Figueredo AJ, Sefcek JA, Vasquez G, Brumbach BH, King JE, Jacobs WJ (2005) Evolutionary personality psychology. In: Buss DM (ed) The handbook of evolutionary psychology. John Wiley, Hoboken, pp 851–877Google Scholar
- Hölling H, Schlack R, Kamtsiuris P, Butschalowsky H, Schlaud M, Kurth BM (2012) The KiGGS study. Nationwide representative longitudinal and cross-sectional study on the health of children and adolescents within the framework of health monitoring at the Robert Koch Institute. Bundesgesundheitsbla 55:836–842CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Hoyle RH (1995) Structural equation modeling: concepts, issues, and applications. Sage, Thousand OaksGoogle Scholar
- Huisman H, Schutte A, Van Rooyen J, Malan N, Malan L, Schutte R, Kruger A (2006) The influence of testosterone on blood pressure and risk factors for cardiovascular disease in a black South African population. Ethnic Dis 16:693–698Google Scholar
- Immonen E, Hämäläinen A, Schütt W, Tarka M (2018) Evolution of sex-specific pace-of-life syndromes: genetic architecture and physiological mechanisms. Behav Ecol Sociobiol. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00265-018-2462-1
- Kann L, McManus T, Harris WA et al (2016) Youth risk behavior surveillance—United States, 2015. MMWR Surveill Summ 65:1–174Google Scholar
- Kline RB (2011) Principles and practice of structural equation modeling. The Guilford Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- Korkmaz S, Goksuluk D, Zararsiz G (2014) MVN: an R package for assessing multivariate normality. R J 6:151–162Google Scholar
- MacArthur RH, Wilson EO (2015) Theory of island biogeography (MPB-1), vol. 1. Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
- Montiglio P-O, Dammhahn M, Dubuc-Messier G, Réale D (2018) The pace-of-life syndrome revisited: the role of ecological conditions and natural history on the slow-fast continuum. Behav Ecol Sociobiol. (in press)Google Scholar
- National Research Council (2011) The science of adolescent risk-taking: workshop report. National Academies Press, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
- Royauté R, Berdal MA, Garrison CR, Dochtermann NA (2018) Paceless life? A meta-analysis of the pace-of- life syndrome hypothesis. Behav Ecol Sociobiol. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00265-018-2472-z
- Stearns S (1982) The role of development in the evolution of life histories. In: Bonner JT (ed) Evolution and development. Dahlem workshop reports (life sciences research report), vol. 22. Springer, Berlin, pp 237–258Google Scholar
- Stearns SC (1992) The evolution of life histories. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
- Susanne C, Bodzsar E (1998) Patterns of secular change of growth and development. In: Bodzsar EB, Susanne C (eds) Secular growth changes in Europe, 1st edn. Eötvös University Press, Budapest, pp 5–26Google Scholar
- Tanner J (1962) Growth at adolescence. Blackwell Scientific Publications, OxfordGoogle Scholar
- Uher J (2011) Personality in nonhuman primates: what can we learn from human personality psychology? In: Weiss A, King J, Murray L (eds) Personality and temperament in nonhuman primates. Springer, New York, pp 41–76Google Scholar
- Worthman CM (1999) Evolutionary perspectives on the onset of puberty. Evol Med:135–163Google Scholar