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Subjective life expectancy predicts offspring sex in a contemporary British population

Johns, Sarah E. (2004) Subjective life expectancy predicts offspring sex in a contemporary British population. Proceedings of the Royal Society B Biological Sciences, 271 (S6). S474-S476. ISSN 0962-8452. (doi:10.1098/rsbl.2004.0220) (Access to this publication is currently restricted. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:162)

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There is evidence that women who are in poor physical condition or who reside in deprived environments are more likely to give birth to daughters than to sons. Under deprived environmental conditions, or when in poor physical health, it has been hypothesized that parents should take into account the available resources and manipulate the sex of any children born. Using subjective life expectancy (SLE) as a measure of how an individual views their future health and environment, I demonstrate that there is an association between the sex of the first child and SLE in a sample of mothers from a contemporary British population (Gloucestershire, UK). SLE was a significant predictor of offspring sex: women who believed that they had longer to live were more likely to have had a male birth than women who thought they would die earlier. Detection of such a bias among the children of British mothers may provide evidence that the sex ratio under relatively affluent Western conditions can still be influenced by adverse environmental or poor maternal condition.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1098/rsbl.2004.0220
Additional information: The author thanks M. Shaw, K. Jones, the Gloucestershire teenage pregnancy coordinators M. Powell and D. Harvey, M. Keating and staff from the East Gloucestershire NHS trust, C. Bodkin and staff from the Severn NHS trust, and the Gloucestershire Health Authority (as was) for assistance in undertaking this research. The author also thanks N. E. Newton-Fisher and two anonymous referees for their comments, and the mothers of Gloucestershire who kindly agreed to participate in this research.
Uncontrolled keywords: sex ratios; Trivers–Willard; subjective life expectancy; reproductive strategy
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Anthropology and Conservation
Funders: University of Bristol (
Department of Health and Social Care (
Depositing User: Sarah Johns
Date Deposited: 19 Dec 2007 18:02 UTC
Last Modified: 12 Jul 2022 10:37 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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