I first came across this hypothesis listening to National Radio, Kim Hill probably, and have since followed it up with some research on the internet – The Grandmother Hypothesis.
The idea was posited by G.C. Williams that menopause might be an adaptation that allows older females to redirect their reproductive efforts into increased support of existing offspring – i.e. the children of their children. This way they would avoid the age related risks of reproduction and avoid depriving any new offspring of their own of a mother’s nurture and thereby possibly decreasing their chance for survival.
By providing support to their families, grandmothers can better ensure the continuation of their genes through the next generation and help with social connections for both of the generations.
So evolutionary adaptation may be the reason for the misery of the menopausal years and yet again prove the old adage that “ A Woman’s Work is Never Done.”
EAN Co ordinator