Life History Theory and Tradeoffs: an Obituary Study

  • Eugene W. Mathes
Research Article


According to life history theory, due to limited resources, people are faced with a number of reproductive tradeoffs, including investment in self-development (somatic effort), mating (mating effort), children and parenting, and extended family and community (inclusive fitness/reciprocal altruism). High investment in self-development, a committed relationship, parenting with a limited number of children, and extended family and community involvement tend to go together and are labeled a slow life history strategy. The purpose of this research was to determine if these tradeoffs have empirical support. Obituaries were rated for self-development (length of life, college/occupation), mating effort (marriage, age at marriage), parenting effort (children, number of children), and inclusive fitness/reciprocal altruism (community involvement, funeral arrangements). All of the variables including gender (scored for female) were expected to load positively on a single factor, except number of children that was expected to load negatively. Contrary to expectation, age at marriage loaded negatively and number of children loaded positively. Revisions of life history theory were suggested.


Life history theory Tradeoffs Slow life history strategy Somatic effort Mating effort 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The author declares that he has no conflict of interest.


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Psychology DepartmentWestern Illinois UniversityMacombUSA

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