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Abstract

There are two principle evolutionary models for why women reduce their fertility, which can be used to explain the modern demographic transition. The first derives from optimality theory (specifically the “quantity-quality” tradeoff hypothesis), and the second from models of biased cultural transmission (“prestige bias” and “kin influence” hypotheses). Data on family planning preferences collected in 1996 and 1998 in a rural African village (in Mpimbwe, Tanzania) are used to test predictions derived from each hypothesis and show that both “quantity-quality” tradeoffs and biased cultural transmission underlie Pimbwe women's decisions. Reproductive decisions, however, are not made in a vacuum. Men and women's ideal family sizes often differ, and sexual conflict is particularly likely to affect a woman's success in limiting her family size. Pimbwe women's reproductive output between the initial family planning survey in 1996 and the most recent demographic survey (2006) is analyzed in relation to both the woman's preferences to limit her family and her exposure to husbands and husbands' kin. Despite wide differences in desired family sizes between men and women the extent of sexual conflict in this population is restricted to husbands and wives, and affects not a woman's use or planned use of modern contraception but her success in employing such methods effectively. There is also some evidence that a woman's mother and her kin assist in the use and effective use of modern methods, offering a prevailing force to the high-fertility objectives of the husband. Am. J. Hum. Biol., 2009. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.