Family, fertility and child health

Family matters, but how, why and when?

A significant focus of Rebecca Sear’s research has been to investigate family influences on child wellbeing and fertility, drawing inspiration from the hypothesis that humans are ‘cooperative breeders’. This hypothesis suggests that women need help from others to raise children, as the costs of raising children are too high in our species for mothers to manage it alone. This work has demonstrated the importance of grandmothers, particularly maternal grandmothers, in improving child outcomes. More recently, this work has focused on family influences on fertility. Family also matters for fertility, though these relationships are less clear-cut than family influences on child outcomes.

This project has recently been funded by a European Research Council Starting Grant FAMMAT: Family matters – intergenerational influences on fertility, between 2010-2015.

The FAMMAT project produced work: on family influences on fertility and child health in lower/middle income countries (Kristin Snopkowski, Paula Sheppard); family and fertility in high income populations (Susie Schaffnit); childhood family structure and later reproductive outcomes (Paula Sheppard, Susie Schaffnit); new models of intergenerational influence (Cristina Moya), and reproductive decision-making (Cristina Moya, Kristin Snopkowski); and cross-cultural analysis of intergenerational influences (Cristina Moya).