Skip to main content

Life History Theory

  • 95 Accesses


r-K selection theory


Life history theory:

A framework for understanding between- and within-species differences in the strategic allocation of bioenergetic and material resources toward competing goals, such as somatic effort, mating effort, and parental effort. Approaches to the study of life history strategies initially focused on biodemographic markers of life history strategies (growth rates, pubertal timing, age at first birth, interbirth interval). Over the last two decades, an increasing body of research has also examined life history using a psychological perspective in efforts to identify additional motivations, attitudes, feelings, and behaviors that may reflect life history strategies (desire to delay reproduction, trade-offs between long-term goals and short-term goals, interpersonal relationships, sociosexuality).

Somatic effort:

Allocation of resources toward one’s own growth, development, and maintenance.

Mating effort:

Allocation of resources toward...

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Candace Jasmine Black .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Section Editor information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

Copyright information

© 2019 Springer Nature Switzerland AG

About this entry

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this entry

Black, C.J., Figueredo, A.J., Jacobs, W.J. (2019). Life History Theory. In: Zeigler-Hill, V., Shackelford, T. (eds) Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences. Springer, Cham.

Download citation

  • DOI:

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Publisher Name: Springer, Cham

  • Print ISBN: 978-3-319-28099-8

  • Online ISBN: 978-3-319-28099-8

  • eBook Packages: Springer Reference Behavioral Science and PsychologyReference Module Humanities and Social Sciences

Chapter History

  1. Latest

    Life History Theory
    20 February 2019


  2. Original

    Life History Theory
    26 July 2018