Stressful family environment, mortality, and child socialisation: Life-history strategies among adolescents and adults from unfavourable social circumstances

T. Bereczkei, A. Csanaky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

32 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This study, based on questionnaires given to 732 subjects, uses an integrative approach with a focus on evolutionary (life-history) explanations. In accordance with Belsky, Steinberg, and Draper's theoretical model of socialisation (1991), we claim that experiences during childhood trigger variations in the life cycle and shift developmental trajectories as adaptive answers to different environmental conditions. Unfavourable family conditions constitute an unpredictable and unstable environment that make children susceptible to adopting opportunistic mating strategies rather than parenting strategies. Based on Chisholm's statement (1993) that high stress in the family provides cues for local death rates, we argue that mortality rates may have a significant effect on reproductive decisions, even in post-industrial societies. We report that length of schooling, date of the first marriage, and fertility were associated with the subjects' family conditions, such as parental affirmation, emotional atmosphere, parent-subject conflicts, and parental relations. Women growing up in unfavourable family circumstances finish schooling and marry earlier, and this shift in developmental trajectory is likely to lead to the higher number of children measured among these women. Men, on the other hand, do not show such a difference in reproductive output, which may be due to their increased involvement in sexual competition. Remarkably, significant correlation has been found between life-history strategy and mortality rates; those coming from unfavourable environments have more deceased sisters and brothers than others. It is possible that individual differences in mating and parenting behaviour are still contingent, among others, on local death rates.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)501-508
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Behavioral Development
Volume25
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies

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