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20-06-2010 | Gynaecology | Article

Fertility could be affected by personality


Free abstract

MedWire News: Women in low social classes who are highly neurotic have more children than those with low levels of neuroticism, but are more likely to have children with a low body mass index (BMI), indicating malnutrition, say researchers.

Alexandra Alvergne, from University College London, UK, and colleagues examined the impact of personality traits including neuroticism and extraversion, on quantity and health of offspring in 65 families from rural villages in Senegal.

The study population represented an under-studied traditional population, where fertility and mortality rates remain higher than those in developed populations.

After controlling for age and marital rank, women with above-median neuroticism had 12 percent more children than those with below-median neuroticism.

However, increased neuroticism was associated with decreased BMI in children aged 0-5 years, illustrating a trade-off between quantity and health of offspring, writes the research team.

Specifically, children of women from low social classes who were in the top quartile for neuroticism had 18 percent lower BMI compared with children of mothers in the bottom quartile for neuroticism.

Conversely, the trait linking men with large numbers of children was extraversion, which had no effect on offspring’s health.

“These results provide an insight into the role of personality traits in influencing individual fertility in different socio-ecological contexts,” say Alvergne et al.

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2010

By Sarah Guy