Public lectures by Professor Paul Seabright and Professor Monique Borgerhoff Mulder will be held on the evenings of 3 and 4 February. Click here for details.

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The Cooperation and Conflict in the Family conference will be held at UNSW in Sydney, Australia from February 2-5 2014.

We will bring together leading economic and evolutionary researchers to explore the nature of conflict and cooperation between the sexes in the areas of marriage, mating and fertility. The conference provides an opportunity for researchers to discuss the economic and evolutionary biology approaches to these issues, explore common ground and identify collaborative opportunities. Areas of interest include:

  • Conflict in mating: How does conflict between the reproductive interests of men and women affect mating markets and sexual strategies?
  • Fertility: How is the fertility decision made in marriage? What are the trade-offs between quality and quantity of children? What factors are behind the demographic transition and low fertility of the modern era?
  • Investment: How do the competing interests of men and women affect parenting behaviour, work and household decisions?


Economics and evolutionary biology have a rich history of analysis of cooperation and conflict in the family. Evolutionary biology sources the beginnings of this analysis to the work of Darwin in the mid to late 19thcentury, while the economic study of the family has origins that are more recent, dating to the late 1950s. Since then, however, a strong tradition has emerged of the application of the economic approach to fertility, marriage, mating markets and investment in the quality and quantity of children.

While the ground being explored is common, the economic and evolutionary approaches are rarely reconciled. Particularly, the concepts of fitness and utility, which lie at the heart of evolutionary biology and economics, have not been unified across the disciplines. Fitness provides a basis for the emergence of traits and preferences, while in an economic utility framework they are assumed.

Cooperation and conflict in the family provides a fertile area to build a bridge between these concepts. In recent decades, understanding of family dynamics has been revolutionised by parallel insights in evolution (sexual conflict theory) and economics that the interests of men and women can diverge, altering the balance between cooperation and conflict within the family.

In February 2014, Sydney will play host to an unprecedented gathering of economic and evolutionary thinkers who will explore the potential for a closer synthesis between evolution and economics in order to address the compelling mysteries that surround sex and reproduction.


We hope you will join us in beautiful Sydney for an exciting meeting of disciplines.

Conference Organisers

Jason Collins & Rob Brooks