Do Data from Large Personal Networks Support Cultural Evolutionary Ideas about Kin and Fertility?


The fertility decline associated with economic development has been attributed to a host of interrelated causes including the rising costs of children with industrialization, and shifts in family structure. One hypothesis is that kin may impart more pro-natal information within their networks than non-kin, and that this effect may be exacerbated in networks with high kin-density where greater social conformity would be expected. In this study, we tested these ideas using large personal networks (25 associates of the respondent) collected from a sample of Dutch women (N = 706). Kin (parents) were perceived to exert slightly more social pressure to have children than non-kin, although dense networks were not associated with greater pressure. In contrast, women reported talking to friends about having children to a greater extent than kin, although greater kin-density in the network increased the likelihood of women reporting that they could talk to kin about having children. Both consanguineal and affinal kin could be asked to help with child-care to a greater extent than friends and other non-kin. Overall, there was mixed evidence that kin were more likely to offer pro-natal information than non-kin, and better evidence to suggest that kin were considered to be a better source of child-care support.

Social Sciences