Publication Date


Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Master of Arts in Anthropology



Major Advisor

Kristin Snopkowski, Ph.D.


Kathryn Warden Demps, Ph.D.


John P. Ziker, Ph.D.


Extrinsic mortality is the likelihood of mortality that is not conditional on reproductive effort. It does not depend on a person’s behavior and cannot be changed by altering behavior. Theoretically, extrinsic mortality plays a major role in the evolution of life history and the variation in reproductive strategies. Using life history theory as a framework, with higher extrinsic mortality cues women should speed up reproduction to maximize fitness in uncertain or risky environments, and in environments with little risk, women can allocate their energy to somatic development and in this time, accrue resources such as education and career opportunities. Thus, I predicted that higher extrinsic mortality cues would be associated with (1) earlier age at menarche, (2) higher number of offspring, and that (3) menarche would mediate early life factors and fertility. This study examined how extrinsic mortality cues, measured by parental separation, residential moves, and violence, affects age at menarche and fertility in a sample of 8,917 women from the 1970 British Cohort Survey. The results show that living with both natural parents at age five and being disabled predicted earlier age at menarche. Not having a disability and having more siblings were the only factors that predicted higher fertility, and age at menarche was not a mediator of the relationship between early life factors and fertility. The results did not support my predictions and may support the child development theory that argues early childhood family experience alters adolescent reproductive development rather than long-term effects like fertility.