Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science

Living Edition
| Editors: Todd K. Shackelford, Viviana A. Weekes-Shackelford

Grandmother Hypothesis, The

  • Mirkka Lahdenperä
  • Antti O. TanskanenEmail author
  • Mirkka Danielsbacka
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-16999-6_2340-1



The grandmother hypothesis states that the long post-reproductive life span in human females would have evolved because women were able to gain more fitness by investing in their adult offspring and grand-offspring rather than by reproducing until old age. Because of this fitness benefit, selection would have favored a longer post-reproductive life span during human evolution.


In most animals, reproductive and somatic senescence occurs at the same time as a part of the gradual decline in overall physical condition with age. In few species, however, the reproductive functions show an abrupt deterioration well before other body functions, leading to a total loss of fertility during middle age and subsequent post-reproductive life span of several decades. So far, the most convincing evidence from menopause and long post-reproductive life span comes from a few whale species,...

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mirkka Lahdenperä
    • 1
  • Antti O. Tanskanen
    • 2
    Email author
  • Mirkka Danielsbacka
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of TurkuTurkuFinland
  2. 2.Department of Social ResearchUniversity of TurkuTurkuFinland
  3. 3.Population Research Institute of FinlandHelsinkiFinland

Section editors and affiliations

  • Todd K. Shackelford
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyOakland UniversityRochesterUSA