Journal of Biosocial Science

Research Article

CHILDLESSNESS PREDICTS HELPING OF NIECES AND NEPHEWS IN UNITED STATES, 1910

THOMAS V. POLLETa1 and ROBIN I. M. DUNBARa2

a1 Centre for Behaviour and Evolution, Newcastle University, UK

a2 Institute of Cognitive & Evolutionary Anthropology, University of Oxford, UK

Summary

The ‘helpers at the nest’ hypothesis suggests that individuals who are not currently reproducing often help kin by caretaking and thereby increase their inclusive fitness. Using a large scale historical dataset (Integrated Public Use Microdata Series sample of 1910; n=13,935), the hypothesis is tested that childless couples are more likely to fulfil such a role by taking care of a niece or nephew, but not a parent, than couples with children. Childless couples were significantly more likely to take care of a niece or nephew than couples with children. In contrast, couples with children and childless couples did not differ in caretaking of parents. Childless couples were also more likely to have more and younger nieces/nephews in their home than couples with children.