Thursday, September 16, 2021

Having a child: You go through all the things you do when you fall in love. You find yourself infatuated. You want to tell everyone about your new love. You can’t wait to be with that person. And you feel like, no matter how many things are going wrong, someone loves you.

The kid option. Alice Dreger. 2009.

I often say, honestly, if the woman I was before I had a child could see the woman I am now, there is no way she would have a kid. That woman was so intense about her work, so used to having her schedule at her control, so used to napping, eating, watching a movie, and having sex whenever she felt like it, she would be horrified to see herself as me.

Me, I get the start and the end of each work day lopped off by the school bus. I get sick all the time from the latest germ to hit our elementary school. (And living in an international academic community, we get a lot of well-traveled germs.) I spend my weekends waiting for my son to finish eating his bagel so we can move on with our day. And then we move on to trainspotting out in the cold for several hours. I even (gasp) go to soccer practice—though I do bring something interesting to read, and I drive a little Honda Fit, or the Saturn SL from grad school (a ’95, with a glove compartment held closed by string), not a minivan. (I am way too sexy for a minivan.)

For intellectuals, having a child can be especially challenging. This is particularly true of the time when your children are babies. Babies don’t hold very good conversations. They don’t make good arguments or cite their sources. And children make you dumber, at least in the short term, because not only is it hard to keep up in your discipline when you lose so much time to family needs, it’s also hard to think straight when you are perpetually sleep-deprived.

When I was breast-feeding, I was sure that the ancients were right about the humours, especially about brains and breast-milk both being made of the same stuff (phlegm). Because the more I fed my son, the dumber I got, and the smarter he got. It really seemed like my brain was draining out my nipples into him.

One colleague of mine was considering having a child, and she asked me what it is like. I decided simply to explain the time loss, for starters. I asked her to pull up her calendar so I could show her. She did. “Now,” I said, “cross off one-third of what you currently have scheduled.” Then I suggested she imagine three days a week doing her remaining work while being very low on sleep. After that, I randomly chose three weeks from her calendar, and told her those would be weeks in which her imaginary child was too sick for her to really get any work done.

And then I explained that, from the moment she had a wanted child, she would be worrying about its mortality, no matter how rational she was, no matter how healthy and sensible her child was.

Obesity and compensatory consumption: Evidence from jewelry shopping

Obesity and compensatory consumption: Evidence from jewelry shopping. Didem Kurt. Psychology & Marketing, September 16 2021.

Abstract: This article examines the link between obesity and compensatory consumption in the context of jewelry shopping. Study 1 finds that participants with higher body mass indices are willing to pay more for a jewelry item. Study 2 generalizes this finding by documenting that jewelry store sales are higher in places with greater obesity rates. Using Google Trends data, Study 3 shows that the search interest for jewelry stores increases with the obesity rate and that this relationship is mediated by people's dissatisfaction with their current weight as revealed by their search activity. Finally, supporting the self-discrepancy account, Study 4 shows that the use of self-related and discrepancy words together in jewelry-related tweets is more pronounced in places with greater obesity rates. These findings collectively help enhance the field's understanding of the consumption behavior of people who are part of a large stigmatized group.

Rolf Degen summarizing... People believe that they understand complicated things better when they are sure that other people understand them

From 2020... How others drive our sense of understanding of policies. Nathaniel Rabb, John J Han, Steven A Sloman. Behavioural Public Policy, Volume 5 Special Issue 4, September 4 2020.

Abstract: Five experiments are reported to compare models of attitude formation about hot-button policy issues like climate change. In broad strokes, the deficit model states that incorrect opinions are a result of a lack of information, while the cultural cognition model states that opinions are formed to maximize congruence with the group that one affiliates with. The community of knowledge hypothesis takes an integrative position. It states that opinions are based on perceived knowledge, but that perceptions are partly determined by the knowledge that sits in the heads of others in the community. We use the fact that people's sense of understanding is affected by knowledge of others’ understanding to arbitrate among these views in the domain of public policy. In all experiments (N = 1767), we find that the contagious sense of understanding is nonpartisan and robust to experimental manipulations intended to eliminate it. While ideology clearly affects people's attitudes, sense of understanding does as well, but level of actual knowledge does not. And the extent to which people overestimate their own knowledge partly determines the extremity of their position. The pattern of results is most consistent with the community of knowledge hypothesis. Implications for climate policy are considered.

Both genders show increase in consumption behaviors & substance use, but women revealed decrease in consumption of wine during pandemic; men showed more TV hours per day; women stand out in the use of mobile phone per day

Health risk behaviors before and during COVID-19 and gender differences. Cátia Branquinho, Teresa Paiva, Fábio Guedes, Tânia Gaspar, Gina Tomé, Margarida Gaspar de Matos. Journal of Community Psychology, September 13 2021.

Abstract: Changes in routines and habits, fear of contamination from the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) virus, and economic crisis have resulted in significant impacts upon individuals' lives, health, and risk behaviors. The present study aims to analyze health risk behaviors and gender differences of Portuguese adults before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. A quantitative analysis using SPSS v. 26 software presents the evaluation of 5746 responses (M = 48.5 years, SD = 14.3), of which 67.7% were female. t Test was used to study differences in means before and during the pandemic and analysis of variance test to analyze gender differences. In the comparative study before and during the pandemic showed a decrease in the number of meals per day, physical activity and perception of sleep quality; an increase in tobacco use, beer consumption, and media use (TV, mobile phone, social networks, and online games). Gender differences study demonstrated that the number of meals per day suffered a decrease from pre to pandemic in women, while increasing in men, becoming prominent in the second moment under study. Both genders had an increase in consumption behaviors and substance use, but women revealed a decrease in the consumption of wine during the pandemic, while men revealed more consumption behaviors in the variables under study. The use of media also changed, with men showing a higher level in TV hours per day, social networks and online games before the pandemic and in TV hours per day and games/online during the pandemic. Women stand out in the use of mobile phone per day during the pandemic. Daily physical activity decreased during the pandemic, as did sleep quality. Males revealed a higher practice of physical activity at both periods, as well as sleep quality. Based on the results presented, it is expected that considerations and actions in the scope of public health policies and health prevention and promotion, will be rethought and adapted to the specificities of each gender.


The present study was developed to compare gender differences in health risk behaviors before and during the pandemic scenario.

In general, health behaviors such as the number of meals per day, physical activity practice, declined during the pandemic, as did the perception of sleep quality; while tobacco, beer consumption, and media use (TV, mobile phone, social networks, and online games) increased. In the same sample, shorter sleep duration, poorer nutrition, decline in physical activity, greater media use, and more negative attitudes and behaviors during the pandemic were found to be positively associated with poor sleep and awakening quality (Paiva et al., 2021). Also in a literature review conducted by Stockwell et al. (2021), a decrease in physical activity and increase in sedentary behaviors is highlighted.

Gender differences are clear: Women have, both prior and during the pandemic, a higher number of meals per day when compared with men, but this number decreased in women and increased in men during COVID-19. Although negative impacts on diet are highlighted (Martínez-de-Quel et al., 2021; Ramalho et al., 2021; Rodgers et al., 2020), Janssen et al. (2021) reveal different changes in lifestyles and diet during the pandemic. The authors report that the number of meals per day can increase or decrease depending on the person, and be related to restrictions, frequency of shopping, perceived risk of disease, decreased financial capacity, and sociodemographic factors.

Smoking behavior (number of cigarettes per day), intensified during the pandemic, being higher in men in the prepandemic. The consumption of beer per day also showed an increase during the pandemic in both genders, as well as the number of glasses of wine per day in men (decreasing in women). Satre et al. (2020) and Weerakoon et al. (2021) reveal similar results.

Media use increased from prepandemic to pandemic in both genders, especially in males in the prepandemic (hours TV per day, social networks and online games) and postpandemic (hours TV per day and games/online). Women use more the mobile phone per day during the pandemic. A study also developed in Europe and during the current scenario, presents that males are more prone to gambling, while women tend to spend more time on social networks (Lemenager et al., 2020).

The number of hours of daily physical activity decreased during the pandemic scenario (Park et al., 2021) as did the quality of sleep. In both a higher mean in males stands out. Despite the worse perception of prepandemic sleep quality, the literature has reported that the worries and uncertainties of this period have a greater impact on female sleep (Liu et al., 2020; Pinto et al., 2020; Sinha et al., 2020; Voitsidis et al., 2020). As women often report their sleep quality as less positive, and it is not known whether this is a reality or a perception, it is also true that they report and live with a lower perception of well-being (de Matos, 2019).

4.1 Strengths and limitations

As regards limitations, and due to the constraints associated with the pandemic scenario, the present study was conducted exclusively online to reach a larger number of participants and decrease the exposure of the team and participants to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Although efforts have been made to have an equitable gender distribution, this was not achieved, but other studies developed in the country show this common reality.

In contrast to the identified limitations, the present study reveals several strengths. The first, the total number of responses obtained, which allows us to increase the validity of its conclusions. The second, the diversity of the sample. Lastly, to our knowledge, this is the first study conducted in the country that includes such a complete diversity of themes in studying the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the involvement of a multidisciplinary team in its design and analysis.

Experiences during the epidemic and reproductive motivation yielded the results which are incongruent with life history theory—adverse experiences during the state of emergency were negatively related to the reproductive motivation

Mededovic, Janko (2021). Reproductive motivation in the context of the COVID-19 epidemic: Is there evidence for accelerated life history dynamics? Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences, Sep 2021.

Abstract: One of the key life history assumptions is that mortality rates are positively associated with fast life history dynamics. Since the COVID-19 pandemic has elevated mortality rates throughout the world, we tested this assumption using reproductive motivation (desired number of children and desired age of first reproduction) as a key output measure using a repeated cross-sectional design. We assessed reproductive motivation in Serbian young adults before the pandemic started (N = 362), during the pandemic-caused state of emergency (the peak of the epidemic's first wave: N = 389) and after the state of emergency (i.e., after the first wave: N = 430). Furthermore, in the third time-point we measured experiences during the state of emergency and additional measures of reproductive motivation (reasons for and against parenthood). Subsamples were matched by sex, education, and the sampling procedure. We found the between-group differences which are congruent with life history theory: the desired age of first reproduction was lowest after the state of emergency compared to the 2 previous time-points. However, there were no differences in the desired number of children. Furthermore, the analysis of the links between experiences during the epidemic and reproductive motivation yielded the results which are incongruent with life history theory—adverse experiences during the state of emergency were negatively related to the reproductive motivation. Since the findings were only partially in accordance with life history theory, we discuss possible reasons which may explain the heterogeneity of results.

When dating, men without children (or those who wanted children) rated age as more important & selected a preferred age range that incorporated younger women; women’s age preferences showed little association with having/wanting children

Kramer, R. S. S., & Jones, A. L. (2021). Wanting or having children predicts age preferences in online dating. Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences, Sep 2021.

Abstract: When dating, women seek men slightly older than themselves while men typically prefer younger women. Such patterns reflect differences in parental investment and age-related fertility, which are both concerned with maximizing reproductive outcomes. Using large samples of online daters, we considered whether having or wanting children was associated with the perceived importance of age as a matching criterion when dating (Study 1; N = 119,361), as well as how these two factors related to the preferred age of a match (Study 2; N = 486,382). Men without children (or those who wanted children) rated age as more important than those with children (or those who did not want children), and also selected a preferred age range that incorporated younger women. In contrast, women’s preferences showed little association with having or wanting children. Taken together, these findings demonstrate that age preferences may depend on factors in addition to those previously investigated, and that the relationships with the number of current children and the desire to have children are consistent with evolutionary predictions.

Rolf Degen summarizes... The male attraction to nubile traits in females may reflect an evolved strategy to safeguard a successful first pregnancy

Does Nubility Indicate More Than High Reproductive Value? Nubile Primiparas’ Pregnancy Outcomes in Evolutionary Perspective. William D. Lassek, Steven J. C. Gaulin. Evolutionary Psychology, September 15, 2021.

Abstract: The idea that human males are most strongly attracted to traits that peak in women in the nubile age group raises the question of how well women in that age group contend with the potential hazards of a first pregnancy. Using data for 1.7 million first births from 1990 U.S. natality and mortality records, we compared outcomes for women with first births (primiparas) aged 16–20 years (when first births typically occur in forager and subsistence groups) with those aged 21–25 years. The younger primiparas had a much lower risk of potentially life-threatening complications of labor and delivery and, when evolutionarily novel risk factors were controlled, fetuses which were significantly more likely to survive despite lower birth weights. Thus, nubile primiparas were more likely to have a successful reproductive outcome defined in an evolutionarily relevant way (an infant of normal birth weight and gestation, surviving to one year, and delivered without a medically necessary cesarean delivery). This suggests that prior to the widespread availability of surgical deliveries, men who mated with women in the nubile age group would have reaped the benefit of having a reproductive partner more likely to have a successful first pregnancy.

Keywords: first pregnancy, female attractiveness, nubility, primiparas, pregnancy complications, mating preferences, reproductive timing

Nubile Mothers Have Better First-Pregnancy Outcomes

As noted in the Introduction section, recent evidence suggests that heterosexual men are attracted to attributes characteristic of physically and sexually mature women between 15 and 19 years of age, closely corresponding to the 16–20 years age group when first births typically occur in natural-fertility populations (Kramer & Lancaster, 2010Lassek & Gaulin, 2019Symons, 1979Walker, 2019). Relevant to that preference, the current study is consistent with others in a variety of populations indicating that, when surgical deliveries are not available, this is also the age group with the best first-pregnancy outcomes.

In our large sample, primiparas were at much higher risk than multiparas for CPD, critical C-sections, and other complications of labor and delivery that increase the risk of maternal mortality, but primiparas aged 16–20 years had substantially lower risks than those 21–25, experiencing a 30% lower risk of any C-section, a 27% lower risk of a critical C-section, and much lower risks for serious complications of labor and delivery, including CPD, abnormal labor, and fetal distress (Table 4). These findings are consistent with many other studies that show a reduced risk of C-sections in primiparas aged 16–19 years versus older mothers, including studies in many non-Western countries (Conde-Agudelo et al., 2000Ganchimeg et al., 20132014).

The reduced risk of complications of labor and delivery in primiparas aged 16–20 years is of special importance in a species where the conjunction of bipedalism and very large brains has made vaginal births difficult. Only very recently have these conflicting selection pressures been relieved by the surgical innovation of C-section, an intervention still not available everywhere. Where and when such surgical births are unavailable, it is essential for a first-time mother to produce a child who can successfully pass through her birth canal so that mother and child can survive and continue to augment her fitness.

Our study does not present data on maternal survival, but the lower risk of labor-and-delivery complications for mothers in the nubile age group would likely decrease the risk of maternal deaths in childbirth. In a recent study of maternal mortality in 144 countries (Nove et al., 2014), in a third of countries mortality was lower for mothers aged 15–19 years than those aged 20–24 years; and this included most of the countries with the highest maternal mortality rates.

There may also be survival benefits for the infants of younger mothers. Our study is consistent with others showing comparable survival in the newborns of mothers aged 16–19 years with those aged 20–24 years when social and behavioral risk factors are controlled (Bradford & Giles, 1989Conde-Agudelo et al., 2000Gallais et al., 1996Ganchimeg et al., 20132014Geist et al., 2006Geronimus & Korenman, 1992Phipps-Yonas, 1980Scholl et al., 1984Smith & Pell, 2001).

When evolutionarily novel risk factors were controlled, the fetuses and newborns of primiparas aged 16–20 years did as well or better as those of primiparas aged 21–25 years and were more likely to survive to 1 year. Although the 16–20-year old primiparas had significantly more preterm births with normal birth weights (which have good survival rates), their risks for preterm births with low birth weight, overall low birth weight, and neonatal mortality were significantly lower.

These results are also consistent with the finding that in 18th–19th century Germany, when infant and child mortality rates were much higher, the children of mothers aged 15–19 years were more likely to survive to reproductive age than those of older mothers (Knodel & Hermalin, 1984). Such high infant and child mortality rates were also likely in the environment of evolutionary adaptedness (EEA; Tooby and Cosmides, 1992), with almost half of children dying before reaching puberty (Volk & Atkinson, 2013).

Because until quite recently most women gave birth at home with assistance from their relatives, another potential advantage for younger mothers is their greater likelihood of having mothers, grandmothers, and aunts to help with pregnancy and childbirth, especially in groups with shorter life expectancies, where senior kin may have been less common.

Thus, it is not surprising that women's evolved life history seems to schedule first reproduction soon after the attainment of adult size and sexual maturity, as revealed by the demography of subsistence populations. Primiparas aged 16–20 years were likely to have a better newborn outcome than older primiparas and much better labor-and-delivery outcomes, which combine to yield a substantially greater chance for a successful pregnancy outcome (Figure 3).

Evolution of Male Preferences for Nubility

Because first pregnancies are most likely to be successful in women in the 16–20 years age group, we would expect positive selection on male preferences that targeted any reliable phenotypic correlates of this female life stage. Thus, this study, together with others showing the advantages of first births in this age range, when first births typically occur in subsistence populations, supports nubility as a key criterion of female attractiveness.

Men’s preferences for certain female traits associated with nubility—such as low WHRs, low BMIs (in well-nourished populations), and low waist–stature ratios (which may be the best predictor of attractiveness)—have recently been explained in terms of their correlation with female reproductive value (Andrews et al., 2017Butovskaya et al., 2017Fessler et al., 2005Lassek & Gaulin, 2019; Marlowe, 1998; Prokop et al., 2020Röder et al., 2013Sugiyama, 2005Symons, 19791995), an inherently future-oriented parameter (Fisher, 1930). Complementing those findings, this study suggests an additional, more immediate, benefit to preferences for nubility.

If, as our findings suggest, nubile women have had more successful first-pregnancy outcomes than older women (thus enhancing their own reproductive success), men with preferences for traits correlated with nubility would have experienced a parallel fitness advantage. Conscious awareness would not have been required for this preference to evolve (Gaulin & McBurney, 2001Kenrick, 1995); genetic variance in the preference and a reliable correlation between the preferred trait (e.g., any sign of nubility) and a positive fitness outcome (e.g., a successful first birth) would be sufficient.

The main cost to males who prefer nubile women is the lower frequency of ovulation in younger women (see Lassek and Gaulin, 2018a). However, this can be largely overcome by an increased frequency of coitus, which is usual for this age group (Weinstein et al., 1990). The fact that the typical age at first birth falls in the nubile period in traditional populations suggests that copulatory effort is normally sufficient to overcome the lower probability of conception with women in this age group.

Because of the lower fertility of nubile women, Symons (1979) suggested that males seeking short-term mating with minimal commitment might prefer older women who would have a greater chance of conceiving, as fertility is maximal in the late 20s. However, Symons (1995) changed his view because of studies in modern hunter-gatherers showing most potentially fertile women over 20 are either pregnant or nursing, with small windows of time when conception is possible. In this context, nubile women are likely to have a greater chance of conceiving despite their reduced frequency of ovulation.

Why do Nubile Primiparas Have Better Obstetric Outcomes?

Three factors help to explain the lower risk of critical surgical deliveries in the 16–20-year-old mothers: (a) Younger primiparas had smaller newborns than older primiparas, with more neonates weighing 2.5–3.4 kg, in the lower two-thirds of the normal range (2.5–3.9 kg), and fewer weighing 3.5 kg or more (Table 3). As shown in Figure 1, smaller neonates are less likely to have CPD or require a critical C-section. (b) For newborns of the same birth weight, nubile primiparas had a much lower risk of a critical C-section (Figure 1), and all but one of its associated complications, than those over 20. (c) The fetuses of younger primiparas were less likely to experience complications during labor and delivery, including fetal distress, cord prolapse, placenta previa, and abnormal position (Table 4). In total, younger mothers seem to have an enhanced ability to move their fetus through the birth canal and their fetuses also seem to be more tolerant of the stresses of labor and delivery.

Negative Consequences of Teen Pregnancy Today

It is important to stress that our analysis also documents the disadvantages of teen pregnancy in WEIRD (as defined by Henrich et al., 2010) populations, such as the United States in 1990, especially in younger teens. Where both surgical births and birth control are widely available and where teen pregnancy is usually associated with social and behavioral risk factors, teen pregnancies are very likely to have many negative long-term consequences for the mother and infant (Black et al., 2012). Pregnancies in teens younger than 16 years had much poorer infant outcomes and were more likely to have an operative delivery (forceps or vacuum extraction). Thus, efforts to prevent teen pregnancies are highly desirable and are not in any way contradicted by any of our conclusions concerning past selection on female life history.

Despite the disadvantages of teen pregnancy in contemporary WEIRD societies, we suggest that our findings are relevant to understanding human evolution, in particular women’s life history and men’s mating preferences. Given the obvious evolutionary importance of a successful vaginal delivery, early first pregnancies and a male preference for nubility were probably advantageous in the premodern era. They would have produced the best odds of a successful reproductive outcome—a benefit to mother, father, and infant.


The use of data from a modern North American population to gauge probable reproductive outcomes in evolutionarily relevant populations is not ideal; but because of the extremely recent nature of shifts in human reproductive ecology, the relevant underlying biology may be largely unchanged. By controlling for evolutionarily novel risk factors which make “teen pregnancy” disadvantageous in contemporary populations, the results should have some validity for natural-fertility populations where first pregnancies in 16–20 year-olds are normative. Our findings of a much lower risk of critically necessary surgical births and a slightly lower risk of neonatal deaths for mothers in the 16–20 years age group (with controls for social and behavioral risk factors) are consistent with findings from a large variety of non-Western countries (Conde-Agudelo et al., 2000Ganchimeg et al., 20132014) and from 18th–19th century Germany (Knodel & Hermalin, 1984).

It might be argued that modern American obstetric practices are quite different from those in traditional societies where experienced midwives play a crucial role, but the uniformity of findings in the US and in three different samples of 23, 29, and 18 non-Western countries points to common underlying factors in reproductive biology and suggests that similar biological factors are likely to have been operating in the EEA.

Because all of the many available studies uniformly show a decrease in obstetric complications requiring a C-section in the 16–19 years age group, this is more likely to be species-typical. Limiting the analysis to C-sections associated with complications that would be likely to cause significant harm to the mother or fetus without surgical intervention may give some indication of the risk in natural-fertility populations without access to surgical deliveries.

Traditional populations are also likely to have much higher infant and child mortality: Infant mortality has been estimated at 27% in the EEA (Volk & Atkinson, 2013), compared with 0.8% in the 1990 data set. However, our analysis controlling for contemporary maternal risk factors suggests that the infants of nubile mothers in the past would likely have done as well or better than those of older mothers, as also indicated by findings from 18th to19th century Germany, where the overall infant mortality rate was 23% (Knodel & Hermalin, 1984).

When comparable infant outcomes are combined with the much lower risk of death in childbirth from complications of labor and delivery, it seems likely that nubile women would have been the most successful primiparas, thus suggesting an adaptive explanation for the timing of first births in a wide range of forager and subsistence populations (Kramer & Lancaster, 2010Lassek & Gaulin, 2019Symons, 1979Walker, 2019).