Current evolutionary adaptiveness of psychiatric disorders: Fertility rates, parent−child relationship quality, and psychiatric disorders across the lifespan


This study sought to evaluate the current evolutionary adaptiveness of psychopathology by examining whether these disorders impact the quantity of offspring or the quality of the parent–child relationship across the life span. Using the National Comorbidity Survey, this study examined whether DSM–III–R anxiety, posttraumatic stress, depressive, bipolar, substance use, antisocial, and psychosis disorders predicted later fertility and the quality of parent–child relationships across the life span in a national sample (N = 8,098). Using latent variable and varying coefficient models, the results suggested that anxiety in males and bipolar pathology in males and females were associated with increased fertility at younger ages. The results suggested almost all other psychopathology was associated with decreased fertility in middle to late adulthood. The results further suggested that all types of psychopathology had negative impacts on the parent–child relationship quality (except for antisocial pathology in males). Nevertheless, for all disorders, the impact of psychopathology on both fertility and the parent–child relationship quality was affected by the age of the participant. The results also showed that anxiety pathology is associated with a high-quantity, low-quality parenting strategy followed by a low-quantity, low-quality parenting strategy. Further, the results suggest that bipolar pathology is associated with an early high-quantity and a continued low-quality parenting strategy. Posttraumatic stress, depression, substance use, antisocial personality, and psychosis pathology are each associated with a low-quantity, low-quality parenting strategy, particularly in mid to late adulthood. These findings suggest that the evolutionary impact of psychopathology depends on the developmental context.

Journal of Abnormal Psychology