Attempting to Answer a Yet Unanswered Question

August 19, 2008

According to evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa in both one of his books–Why Beautiful people Have More Daughters–and in a recent entry in his blog The Scientific Fundamentalist, there are still unanswered questions left for the theories of evolutionary psychology to answer, elaborate and explain. It should come as no surprise as the realm of science has been gifted with a never-ending supply of enigmas in need of exploration.

The evolutionary psychology’s unanswered question No. 8–by Kanazawa’s count–is the following:

Why do parents in advanced industrial nations have so few children?

As my mind is too easily intrigued and inspired by unanswered questions within fields I one day would like to be seen as knowledgeable in,–and because I have problems minding my own business,– I of course came up with a small theory, or perhaps more of a statement, to the question (which I of course should have elaborated further before posting on the blog at 2AM this morning):

Though the ultimate goal of a parent is to raise as many children as ever possible, as it is the purpose of the parent’s life and the greatest desire of their genes, there is a limit, for there are few cases to my knowledge where parents have produced children in large quantities without any sense of control.

This “limit” is abstract as there was no such thing as contraception in the ancestral environment. Though the genes desire nothing but reproduction, they can not be allowed to dictate all rules of human reproduction as it would not be very evolutionary sound. Thus, there are genes ensuring that the human (and all other animals, mammals in particular) mindsets see to the quality instead of the quantity.

This concern is the reason for the use of contraception. Though it is a modern invention, it is less tiresome than the act of carrying a child only to abandon it later because of the limited resources all have to keep in mind. Contraception is an effective way of maintaining the quality of the offspring as fewer resources are required by the bearing of a child that can not be raised without its siblings suffering.

In the industrial world there is a cost to everything, and thus it is very expensive to raise even one child. (Figures near $100.000 are often mentioned.) Without near-unlimited economical resources–or in the ancestral environment resources in particular–it is close to impossible to raise a great number of children and the reason for why few do.

For, as the genes desire nothing more than to live on for yet another generation, and the human being only is the means to an end in this matter, it is more evolutionary sound and successful to raise a few children instead of the maximum number one may produce; quality over quantity.

Are few children raised when resources are scarce, then their chances of reaching adulthood and to successfully reproduce are greater than if many children were raised with the limited resources and none of them recieved enough to reach a reproductive age.

To conclude this reasoning I would like to point out once more that the number of children parents in industrialised societies have is closely related to the parents’ financial status.

This can easily be observed if focus is placed upon the lower-, middle- and upper-classes: parents of limited resources are more likely to raise only one child while parents of somewhat greater resources may raise one or two more. However, among the wealthiest it is very common for parents to raise more than three children–it is more a rule than an exception–and in some cases the number of children may be as great at 10.

Notice: I supplemented this theory with considerations unthought of in th post above in a more recent blog entry.

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One Response to “Attempting to Answer a Yet Unanswered Question”


  1. […] 21, 2008 My previous theory to answer evolutionary psychology’s unanswered question No. 8 has now been supplemented with […]


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