Sunday, October 26, 2008

Fewer sexual partners means more babies

Last week, a 17 year-old friend to whom I consider myself a sort of mentor was on the verge of breaking down when I, sensing something was wrong, inquired as to what it was. His girlfriend of a few months had just broken up with him and started hanging out with a mutual male friend. I reminded him that only months ago, when she'd been after him, he'd been ambivalent for weeks before going ahead with the formality of asking her out and committing himself (he's a good looking, athletic guy who has had multiple eights and nines, including the girl who'd just broken up with him, show interest in him before he showed any in their direction--something that is relatively common during the 'egalitarian' adolescent years).

Never mind the details, just suffice it to say he's too passive to 'capitalize' on his opportunities. He's also a kind and sensitive person who I'm sure will do well in life. He's distraught over still being innocent, which bothers me. I tried to console him by letting him know that if I could turn back time, I still would be. Ideally, so would my wife. That way we'd have a special bond, a connection each would have to the other unique from either of our relationships with anyone else in the world. In response, he said such a situation is too rare among his generation for that to be realistic (I wanted to further console him by letting him know it's actually rarer among my generation than his, but he's only in high school and wasn't in the mood for me to be captious).

I dispense the anecdote because despite his concern that he'll never get any action, I suspect he'll end up having more kids than most of the other caddish guys who are currently after his former girl. I suspected the same, more generally, when I posted skeptically on a study which some insinuated to be evidence that girls find bad boys more attractive than they do good guys. It disturbed me to think that my ideal might be losing out, as old-fashioned as media portrayals of it suggest.

Fortunately, it's not going the way of the landline phone. Using GSS, I looked at the average number of children a man has and compared it with the number of female partners he's had from the age of 18 onward. Men who have only had one partner are the most fecund:


The GSS cuts off at eight children ("eight or more"). I treated men in this category as though they'd had exactly eight kids. Men with a single partner are the most likely of all groups to belong to it, so the previous table actually makes them look slightly less fertile relative to the others than is actually the case.

As the number of partners increases, the number of procreations decreases. Taking the average number of chidren for each group of men (those who've had one partner, those who've had two partners, etc) and comparing it with the number of partners each group has had yields an inverse correlation of .57 (p=.02).

A graphical representation of the data follow:

Green-on-up indicates replenishment or better. Nearly two-thirds of men who are committed to a single woman have popped out two or more children. For the contemporary Genghis Khans, fewer than half have pulled it off. While only one-quarter of committed men have not bore a child, one-third of the Khan's have failed to do so. Lifelong monogamy may have been 'selected' against in the past, but it is being selected for today.

I stand by my previous assertion that assuming because bad boys have more sexual partners they must be more attractive to women is a big leap. Perhaps the single most important factor in determining how many sexual partners a man has is knowing how many he wants to have. And it's the responsible, family man-types who want to have (or are at least content having) fewer partners and more kids.

In addition to this demonstration that men who find the one and stick with her are leaving more offspring than skirt chasers are, GNXP's Jason Malloy has shown that law-abiding men are also more fecund than those who get in trouble with the law are. He needs to move some of these insights from the comments section of various blogs to the main thread of GNXP:

"Anecdotally, it appears that your average psychopath, gang member, or convicted felon gets himself way further into the gene pool than the average salaryman."

The GSS asks respondents if they have ever been picked up or charged by police. According to the GSS, those who answer 'yes' average 1.73 kids, those who answer 'no' average 2.20 kids. Law-abiding men leave more children.
So it appears that if the bad boy traits were ever selected for, they're not being selected for any longer.

Finally, the insistence on an alpha-beta dichotomy strikes me as stupid. Is there anything empirical that actually backs up such a characterization? What man doesn't play the alpha role when he is able to and the beta role when he realizes he is unable to? I play basketball in a rough area of Independence. You better believe I'm Mr. Alpha there. When I'm dealing with my boss, I'm usually in beta mode. If I'm able to dominate the situation, or it's necessary to at least try to, I'm in alpha-mode. If it's harmful to do so, I'm obsequious. To be otherwise would be self-immolating.

The challenge is figuring out when to take charge and when to take orders. Perhaps conscietiousness would be a better measure of what the alpha-beta dichotomy is after?


Stopped Clock said...

You surprised me by talking about 17 year olds as a different generation. You must be older than I thought. I'm 27 but I consider myself to be still the same generation as today's high schoolers.

Did the GSS thing survey men all of the same age, or is it a mix of men of all different ages? If they are all, say, 65, I think it makes sense that the ones who've had only one partner would have more kids since that would mean that most of them had been married to the same person for quite a long time. But if they didn't control for age, I think a lot of the "1 partner" people would just be really young, and thus in that case you could expect that if the age were held constant that the 1-partner people would have an even greater advantage over the others (I think).

Peter said...

Having participated in, oh, about 10,000 blogosphere threads about Alphas and Betas, I've come to the conclusion there are actually three types of Alphas. Much confusion results from the usual expedient of lumping all Alphas into one group.

"Leader" Alphas have highly paid, usually managerial or professional jobs. Investment bankers, BIGLAW partners, hedge fund managers, and corporate executives are classic examples. These men have tremendous natural leadership powers, able to take charge of even the most difficult situations. Leader Alphas are the men who own NFL luxury boxes and belong to exclusive country clubs. For the most part, Leader Alphas do very well with women - power is a tremendous chick magnet. About the only exceptions are some nerds who have high-level IT jobs thanks to excellent technical skills. They have money and power, but due to deficient personalities aren't natural leaders, so it's arguable that they should even be in this category.

Physical Alphas are fit, hardbodied, athletic men with aggressive testosterone-driven personalities. They may earn decent money, especially in the skilled trades, but don't compare to the Leader Alphas in this respect. Physical Alphas favor action sports and risk-taking, and won't shy away from the occasional barroom brawl (which they win, of course). Todd Palin is a classic Physical Alpha. Like Leader Alphas, Physical Alphas tend to do well with women, even if they women they attract may be less cultured and upscale than those drawn to Leader Alphas.

Finally, Womanizer Alphas are the sort of men who have an amazing knack of scoring with the hottest women despite lacking high-paying jobs or physical prowess. They're the hardest to understand, and perhaps the least common.

agnostic said...

Psychopaths and other anti-social types were probably selected against (aside from frequency-dependence keeping their numbers low), in Northern Europe around 1500 -- when the centralized states could crack down on bad guys. That's when the homicide rate starts to plummet.

The alpha - beta thing exists, but animal behavior people talk about two sub-types of sexual selection: male-male competition, and courtship of females. In my view, the pickup artists are specialists at courtship of females, compared to what they call AFCs -- Average Frustrated Chumps.

Most of them do not specialize in male-male competition, which takes up a lot of time. In the US, girls don't flock to the winners of such competitions anyway, unless you're *really* rich and famous. The average investment banker, even during the boom, wasn't being chased by girls, and wasn't getting any.

Which group we want to apply "alpha" to is arbitrary. Usually it's to the male-male competition winners, but it doesn't matter as long as we're clear what we're talking about.

And today's high schoolers are definitely not the same generation as those born in 1980 or '81 -- I know!

agnostic said...

Also, if you find yourself with 9 partners, you might as well go for it and have 100 -- after 9, the fertility curve is flat (with noise), rather than continuing to decline.

BGC said...

Very interesting indeed!

My guess is that religiousness is probably the explanatory variable - since religiousness correlates with higher fertility and correlates (I believe) with fewer sexual partners (think Mormons as the extreme version of the phenomenon, evangelical Christians as similar).

On the other hand, Richard Lynn's most recent book - The Global Bell Curve - is a compendium of data which suggests that (in many countries) the most highly criminal ethnicities tend also to be the most highly fertile.

Audacious Epigone said...


I ran it on men of all ages (over 18, of course). I'm not sure your speculation is really a contingency though--it seems like more of a necessity. Men who've only had one partner but multiple kids have for certain (assuming honesty) been with the same woman (and only that woman) over time, steadily or even on-and-off, but 'committed' to the same woman nonetheless.

I'm 25, but usually get 22-23 as an age guess if I'm not in a formal situation (thanks to Agnostic, I've been asking acquaintances to take a stab at it on a regular basis). It is enough of a spread to be identifiably outside the narrow HS cultural sphere, but still young enough to get kids to open up intimately after some regular interaction. I think it's a perfect spread to allow for being a positive, stable role model without the kids consciously identifying you as such.


Those are very different kinds of "alphas" though. In competition between category one and category two, the situation is crucial. I suppose the first big money men are the most dominant in general because they're the most professionally successful, but there are opportunities for the second group of alphas to dominate the first. The third group is distint from the other two, so much so that it seems like a stretch to say that Girl Sydney would find all three of them similarly attractive.


But the outcome of many male-male competitions are too situation-contingent for me to find it a useful as a noun. It strikes me as only having utility as an adjective, similar to the way you might say Zach's ball-handling is strong.


I'm hoping to explore that angle soon. May be that the inter- and intra- group patterns are different.

Anonymous said...

If I tried to pull "alpha" a la Roissy with my boss.............I'd be unemployed pretty soon.

You have to pick your shots in other words.

Russell Brand might be considered "alpha" amongst a certain set, but in a room full of Marines, he is a pussy and would be stomped down on very hard if he tried ordering those kinds of men around.

Women are attracted to men who radiate confidence and are bold. There is obviously primal instincts involved here. Men are attracted to feminine women who are damn near vunerable. There are primal instincts involved there. Women dont like effiminate men normally, with some exceptions. Men dont like masculine women normally, with some exceptions.

Epigone's friend is 17. That little gal is probably the same age. The best way for his friend to get over her is with another girl (or 2 or 3 girls). This is time-tested-field-tested-RX. It works.

Superdestroyer said...


You should look at football coaches as alpha males yet most all are married and have several children.

Getting 12 assistant coaches and 100 plus very physical males to do something requires an alpha male. Yet, football coaches do not fit the roissy definitionof alpha males.

You could separate males into those who want their family lines spread into further generations and those who do not care.

Peter said...

Superdestroyer -

Football coaches are probably among the relatively few men who are both Leader Alphas and Physical Alphas. It's surely a nearly irresistable combination for most women.

If I tried to pull "alpha" a la Roissy with my boss.............I'd be unemployed pretty soon.

Roissy's never even hinted at what he does for a living. Given the lengthy postings he makes during the normal workday, my suspicion is that he's self-employed in some manner, and doesn't work normal hours.
If he does have a regular job, I would imagine that he's very different at work, no Alpha stuff.

Herr Apparent said...

"Given the lengthy postings he makes during the normal workday, my suspicion is that he's self-employed in some manner, and doesn't work normal hours."

Or is a cookie cutter office drone, a la Office Space, wasting company time on the Internet all day.

He has mentioned his office job.

Fat Knowledge said...


Interesting stuff. I had no idea that someone with 10 partners have the least amount of offspring.

Couple of random thoughts:
1) How good is this GSS data? Do you think that they are able to get real answers from people taking into account affairs? And the 16+ partners, I wonder if they are aware of all the children that they have.

2) What is the frequency/percentage of people that are in each # of partner categories?

3) I wonder if this changes much if you take the data for people at age 60, so you get a whole life time of partners, rather than having some data points be young people who are likely to have more partners in their life.

4) You think there are any Jerry Springer issues with this data, where the child is not really the father's?

5) I wonder if there is any difference in the average age of becoming a father between groups. The younger you have children the larger their genetic impact on the population. I think maybe those that have the fewest partners got married early and started to have kids early and therefore their genetic impact is even greater than the larger number of offspring shows.

Fat Knowledge said...

Oh yeah, and I think you are on the lookout for things that negatively correlate with IQ. I came across this recently: IQ at age 10 may be linked to adult alcohol use.

Stopped Clock said...

There's a table at that shows a long list of things that correlate positively or negatively with IQ, taken from a variety of scientific studies. The site frequently goes up and down, though, and right now it's down.

Anonymous said...

Roissy is a cad and has admitted as such; I believe he prefers "libertine". On the other extreme are alphas like Mel Gibson and Mitt Romney who are extremely religious and virile, seven and five children, respectively. Romney has stated Ann is the only person he's been with and vice versa. John McCain seems to be a more typical alpha, especially of this era: went a little wide in his young adult years and settled down and had and/or parented children, divorced, settled down again and had more children.

Audacious Epigone said...


Number of respondents by total female partners since age 18:

1: 1726
2: 743
3: 778
4: 601
5: 670
6: 483
7: 213
8: 258
9: 80
10: 690
11: 39
12: 237
13: 29
14: 32
15: 308
16+: 1752

With self-reports you're always going to have some amount of inaccuracy. But is there reason to think it skews one way or the other re: partners (I doubt people lie about the number of children they have with any frequency)? My natural assumption is that it's pretty close to a wash. Maybe some of the cheaters aren't coming clean about cheating to GSS researchers, and perhaps some guys are overselling their sexual prowess, but I don't see any reason to assume the guys who exhibit less fidelity than they report are intentionally underreporting the number of children they've had, or that the wanna-be players are overreporting the number of children they've had. There's no way to tell for sure, I guess.

Re: age range, I'm going to post some more on this topic. I'll look at age, race, etc.

Thanks for the article. It's not conclusive, but certainly interesting. It brings to mind Lisa Simpson's assertion that there is an inverse correlation between intelligence and happiness.


Any chance you will dig up the link? I tried the site, but it's running too slowly for me to muster the patience to scour for it.

Stopped Clock said...

Here it is:

Some of them are obvious, but some of them are interesting. It really kills the stereotype that "jocks are dumb" by showing that for the most part, good body strength and athleticism are positively correlated with g. It also shows that stereotypical geeks arent that well reflected, since they tend to be introverted. As for myself, I've got a lot of traits from both lists.

Fat Knowledge said...


Thanks for the distribution info.

As for the quality of the GSS data, I don't know how I think it would impact this analysis if people were less than honest. I just think that data like this is hard to get accurately, so you wonder how much confidence to have in any conclusions drawn from it. For example, I find it hard to believe that so many more people have had 10, 12 or 15 partners than 11, 13 or 14.

Audacious Epigone said...


The number spikes at the X5s and X0s beyond 16 as well. I don't take that as a sign of dishonesty, just an inability to recall the exact number of people one has slept with. Ten, 12, and 15 are 'rounder' numbers than 11 or 13 are.

Anonymous said...

Many men may misestimate the number of children they have fathered. Some of those low-total-partners "fathers" are undoubtedly raising cuckoos' chicks. Some of the high-total-partners "non-fathers" probably have unacknowledged offspring.

SFG said...

He's also a kind and sensitive person who I'm sure will do well in life.

No offense to your attempts to help a kid having a hard time, but my experience has been that morality is an impediment to success. Maybe it's different out there in flyover country...(no, really)?

Audacious Epigone said...


I wonder if the GSS offers anything in regards to that question. I've lived here and in Redmond (Seattle metro area). My impression is that the level of friendliness/neighborliness is higher here, but I'm not sure if or how that translates into the consequences of greater morality.

Whiskey said...

I know this is old, but Beta Revolution linked to it and I have to respond.

My criticism of the GSS data is that it does not fully represent the trends I've seen in my life in how sexual selection moves towards Barrio/Ghetto norms.

And yes, for a Black Ghetto guy the number of partners directly increases his children, there's even words for it "baby momma" and "baby daddy' with the norm being a woman with three kids by three different fathers. See also Chav Britain. The younger White cohort IS radically different, they cohabitate, don't marry, and illegitimacy is rising.

Your teen guy you tried to console is correct -- he knows the score better than you. He will get little action, and at best be offered when stable and earning money the "opportunity" to take care of a bad-boy's kid or two by the women who pursued them until they could not. You did him an active disservice by offering him faulty advice. His best bet is to start GAME, and learn how to manipulate attraction levels. The era of football coaches being the model of masculinity is over.

Look who women in the younger cohorts have sex with and who they end up reproducing with. It's not sensitive guys, it's bad boys. Russell Brand may not command the respect of Marines but nearly every attractive woman on the planet would want to have sex with him.

Audacious Epigone said...


I spend more time around teenagers than virtually anyone else does, and I know several of them on a very intimate and personal level. I highly doubt that you do. My friend/surrogate little brother has gotten back together with the girl, and lost his innocence to her on graduation night. She wants to have kids in 4 years.

But anecdotes don't get us anywhere--just look at the data, either mine or Agnostic's. The evidence shows that, if anything, girls are becoming less slutty than they were a decade ago. The vast majority of women have fewer than 10 different partners in their entire lifetimes.

Anonymous said...

Stop the presses.

I can't believe that Peter, GNP guy, wrote an interesting and insightful comment.