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Editorial Note variation in women’s reproductive


Understanding the variation in women’s reproductive scheduling among individuals, populations, age groups, and environments is of considerable interest to researchers across disciplines. Life-history theory provides a general framework for understanding how organisms allocate time and energy into reproduction in different environments to maximize their fitness1. Trade-offs between investing in growth, somatic maintenance, and reproduction, for example, can result in different optimal strategies with respect to reproductive timing or investment in offspring2. Although environmental stress and adversity are often seen as being detrimental to fitness under all conditions3, models generated out of life-history theory predict that individuals will adjust their reproductive strategies adaptively in response to conditions they experience during development4. Reproductive strategies ultimately depend on the fitness returns for producing and investing in children in the face of an uncertain future, and there is considerable theoretical5, empirical6, and experimental7 support for the hypothesis that both harsh and unpredictable environments result in greater early age reproductive effort and reduced parental investment, when the chances of one’s own future survival and reproduction are uncertain. Therefore, life-history theory sees conditions in early-life as signals that can trigger adaptive responses which enable organisms to maximize their fitness in changing environments8.


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