Abigail E. Page

Biological Anthropologist working in an interdisciplinary setting at LSHTM to bring together anthropological, demographic and public health perspectives on social support and maternal and child health

Childcare, parental investment, demography and diversity

Non-maternal carers (allomothers) are hypothesized to lighten the mother’s workload, allowing for the specialized human life history including relatively short interbirth intervals and multiple dependent offspring. To date, evolutionary anthropology’s approach to understanding allomothering has largely (but not exclusively) investigated the ultimate explanations of allomothering (i.e. why it evolved) by examining allomother effects on maternal reproductive success (measured by fertility, child health and/or development and child survival). From this perspective, allomothers are assumed to reduce maternal energetic burden, freeing up the mother, allowing her to ‘stack’ offspring. For a holistic understanding of cooperative childrearing, however, ultimate reasons must be complemented with an understanding of how allomothering translates to increased reproductive success. In addition, while a wide range of contemporary and historical cross-cultural studies have highlighted that mothers receive help with childcare from various individuals (allomothers), little exploration has occurred into why we see diversity in allomothers. This project seeks to explore the complexities of childcare in the Agta.

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Infant feeding ideology, expectation and reality

Public health messaging, by presenting breastfeeding as ‘natural’, ‘easy’ and ‘good,’ may be underpreparing women for the challenges of breastfeeding, as well as marginalising and stigmatising those who struggle to breastfeed or choose alternative methods of infant feeding. This messaging, we suggest, creates additional barriers to breastfeeding. However, we currently lack large scale, quantitative data able to untangle cause from effect; a reliance on retrospective methodologies has impeded understanding of how prior expectations interact with women’s real-time experiences that ultimately influence infant feeding decisions. We will address prior methodological limitations by developing and piloting an innovative mobile application (app), to collect daily data on women’s infant feeding experiences and decisions. The app will allow mothers to track their own feeding journeys, whilst facilitating exploration of breastfeeding narratives and feeding behaviour in unprecedented depth.

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Fertility and subsistence - a cross-cultural analysis

The debate about the relationship between fertility and subsistence is an old one, and an example of a classic anthropological investigation into the relationship between food production, behaviour and demography. Anthropological and archaeological theory present hunter-gatherer fertility as ‘relatively low’ compared to other subsistence types. However, the evidence (based on cross-cultural averages) is mixed, suggesting a wide range of heterogeneity in fertility regardless of subsistence type. Despite inconsistent results the literature on the demography of small-scale societies still tends to assume hunter-gatherers have lower fertility compared to other populations. This may well be true, but we lack the evidence to support this statement due to theoretical and methodological shortcomings in previous research. This proposed research project seeks to re-open this classic question by investigating the relationship between fertility and subsistence at the individual level from a wide range of small-scale populations to overcome previous limitations.

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Social support, maternal experience and infant feeding

While the public health literature demonstrates a positive association between social support and breastfeeding, research has generally focused on informational and emotional support, overlooking practical help. Research also overlook wider sources of support, such as grandparents. Informed by evolutionary theory, we investigate how different types of support from different allomothers (such as fathers, grandmothers and professionals) are associated with breastfeeding duration and maternal experience of infant feeding. In the winter of 2017-2018 over 700 women from the UK took part in an online survey asking about their experiences infant feeding, problems they faced and support they received. Findings will contribute to public health understandings of how best to support mothers during the first few years of their children’s lives.

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Cooperative childrearing, health and livelihood change in the Agta hunter-gatherers

My PhD was part of the at UCL which studied hunter-gatherers in Congo (Mbendjele), Malaysia(Batek), Thailand (Maniq) and the Philippines (Agta), using behavioural ecology, life history theory, theories of cooperation, cultural transmission and genetics to explore how variation in life history traits, kin selection, mate systems, cooperative behaviour, differentially contribute to hunter-gatherer resilience in the past, present and future. Working as a team of 6 PhD students (3 in the Philippines and 3 in the Congo) we collected a mountain of data on all spheres of life. This produced a large number of articles on cooperation, marriage systems, social organisation, aging, social networks and cumulative culture. My research focused on cooperative childrearing, health and livelihood change in the Agta.

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Journal article - Page, A. E. et al. (2021) Children are important too. Phil Trans. B.

Here, using in-depth observational data on who for cares for 78 Agta children (aged 0-6 years, a foraging population in northern Philippines), we explore whether allomaternal childcare substitutes (and thus decreases) maternal childcare.

May 2021

Journal article - Emmott, E. H., Myers, S. and Page, A. E. (2021) Who cares for women with children? Phil Trans. B.

Editorial for the special issue 'Multidisciplinary perspectives on social support and maternal-child health

May 2021

Special Issue - Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Social Support and Maternal Child Health: Guest edited issue of Phil. Trans. B.

Special issue of Philosophical transaction of the Royal Society B edited by Abigail E. Page, Sarah Myers and Emily H. Emmott

May 2021

Journal article - Myers, S., Page, A. E. and Emmott, E. H., (2021) The differential role of practical and emotional support in infant feeding experience in the UK? Phil Trans. B.

Using survey data collected online from 515 UK mothers with infants aged 0–108 weeks, Cox regression models assessed the relationship between receiving different types of support, support need and breastfeeding duration.

May 2021

Preprint - Page, A. E., Emmott, E. H., and Myers, S. Testing the buffering hypothesis: breastfeeding problems, cessation and social support.

Here, we test the hypothesis that social support buffers mothers from the negative impact breastfeeding problems have on duration on a sample of 566 UK mothers who completed a retrospective online survey about infant feeding and social support in 2017-2018.

April 2021

Journal article - Page, A. E. and French, J. C. (2020) Reconstructing prehistoric demography. Evolutionary Anthropology

We provide recommendations about the application of hunter-gatherer data to the study of demographic trends throughout human evolution. We use published demographic data from extant hunter-gatherers to show that it is the diversity seen among extant hunter-gatherers that is most relevant for understanding past hunter-gatherer demography.

November 2020

Journal article - Brown, L. J. et al. (2020) Subjective Environmental Experiences and Women’s Breastfeeding Journeys. IERPH

Using retrospective data from an online survey of UK mothers of children aged 0–24 months, Cox-Aalen survival models test whether negative subjective environmental experiences negatively correlated with any and exclusive breastfeeding.

October 2020

Journal article - Emmott, E. H, Page, A. E. & Myers, S. (2020) Typologies response to comments. Social Science and Medicine

Our reply to comments by Harpur and Haddon (2020) on our paper on the typologies of social support and its associations with breastfeeding at two months in a UK sample.

May 2020

Journal article - Migliano, A. B. et al. (2020) Hunter-gatherers multilevel sociality accelerates the evolution of cumulative culture. Science Advances

Here, we investigated the effect of multilevel sociality on cumulative cultural evolution by using wireless sensing technology to map inter- and intraband social networks among Agta hunter-gatherers.

February 2020

Journal article - Emmott, E. H, Page, A. E. & Myers, S. (2020) Typologies of postnatal support and breastfeeding at two months in the UK. Social Science and Medicine

Using retrospective data from an UK-based online survey (data collection period December 2017 - February 2018), we carry out a latent class regression (n = 432) to identify “clusters” of postnatal support in our data.

January 2020

Journal article - Page, A. E. et al. (2019) Testing adaptive hypotheses of alloparenting in Agta foragers. Nature Human Behaviour

We used high-resolution proximity data from 1,701 child–alloparent dyads to test why alloparents help in the Agta.

August 2019

Book chapter - Emily, E. and Page, A. E. (2019) Alloparenting. Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science

Introductory chapter about alloparenting (Caregiving by nonparental caregivers, who provide direct and/or indirect investments to a child).

July 2019

Journal article - Dyble, M. et al. (2019) Engagement in agricultural work is associated with reduced leisure time among Agta hunter-gatherers. Nature Human Behaviour.

A long-standing hypothesis suggests that the transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture results in people working harder, spending more time engaged in subsistence activities and having less leisure time. Here we test this hypothesis by examining adult time allocation among the Agta.

May 2019

Journal article - Page, A. E. et al. (2019) Why so many Agta boys. Evolutionary Human Sciences

The Agta, a foraging population from the Philippines, have a skewed sex ratio of 1.29 (129 males per 100 females) aged 15 years or under. We hypothesised that this skew was not caused by greater female deaths, but due to an adaptive response, where more males were produced at birth in reaction to high male-biased extrinsic mortality. To test this hypothesis we utilise census, childcare and mortality data from 915 Agta.

May 2019

Journal article - Smith D., et al. (2018) A Friend in Need is a Friend Indeed. Evolution and Human Behaviour.

A recent suite of models based upon ‘cooperative assortativity’ suggest that non-kin cooperation can evolve if individuals preferentially assort with certain cooperative phenotypes, such as helping those who help others. Here, we test these assortative hypotheses among the Agta, a population of Filipino hunter-gatherers, using an experimental resource allocation game in which individuals divide resources between themselves and camp-mates.

January 2019

Journal article - Page, A. E., et al. (2018) Hunter-gatherer health and development policy. Social Science and Medicine.

Recent research in the Agta (Philippine foragers from North-east Luzon) has demonstrated that individuals residing in more ‘developed’ communities suffer from increased morbidity and mortality. Here, using quantitative and ethnographic data on health collected between 2002 and 2014, we explore why this trend occurs by examining the relationship between key development initiatives with self-reported illness and the uptake of medical interventions with 415 Agta men, women and children.

January 2018

Journal article - Smith, D., et al. (2017) Cooperation and the evolution of hunter-gatherer storytelling. Nature Communications.

Here we explore the impact of storytelling on hunter-gatherer cooperative behaviour and the individual-level fitness benefits to being a skilled storyteller

December 2017

Journal article - Diekmann, Y., et al. (2017) Accurate age estimation in small-scale societies. PNAS

Understanding demographic and evolutionary processes shaping human life history diversity depends on precise age estimations. Inferring age is a challenge in small-scale societies, and especially in those societies that do not follow a calendar year. Our method opens possibilities in demographic and life history studies allowing cross-sectional data to be incorporated in cross-cultural comparisons and a better understanding of the adaptive importance of human life history variation.

July 2017

Journal article - Page, A. E., et al. (2017) Hunter-Gatherer Social Networks and Reproductive Success. Scientific Reports

Here, we present the first exploration in humans of the relationship between reproductive success and different measures of network centrality of 39 Agta and 38 BaYaka mothers.

April 2017

Journal article - Migliano, A.B., et al. (2017) Characterization of hunter-gatherer networks and implications for cumulative culture. Nature Human Behaviour

We developed a portable wireless sensing technology (motes) to study within-camp proximity networks among Agta and BaYaka hunter-gatherers in fine detail.

February 2017

Journal article - Salali, G.D, et al. (2016) Knowledge-sharing networks in hunter-gatherers and the evolution of cumulative culture. Current Biology

Here we examine the reported co-occurrence of plant uses between individuals in dyads (which we define as their “shared knowledge” of plant uses) in BaYaka Pygmies from Congo.

September 2016

Journal article - Chaudhary, N. et al. (2016) Within-Group Competition for Cooperation among BaYaka Hunter-Gatherers. Scientific Reports

Competition and cooperation also occur within groups; and inter-individual differences in sociality have reported fitness implications in numerous non-human taxa. Here we investigate whether differential access to cooperation (relational wealth) is likely to lead to variation in fitness at the individual level among BaYaka hunter-gatherers.

July 2016

Journal article - Smith, D. et al. (2016) Camp Stability Predicts Patterns of Hunter-Gatherer Cooperation. Royal Society Open Science

Here we explore cooperation among the Agta, a population of Filipino hunter–gatherers, using data from both actual resource transfers and two experimental games across multiple camps.

July 2016

Journal article - Page, A. E., et al. (2016) Reproductive trade-offs in extant hunter-gatherers suggest adaptive mechanism for the Neolithic expansion. PNAS

The rise of agriculture during the Neolithic period has paradoxically been associated with worldwide population growth despite increases in disease and mortality. We examine the effects of sedentarization and cultivation on disease load, mortality, and fertility among Agta foragers.

April 2016

Journal article - Chaudhary, N. et al. (2016) Polygyny without wealth: Popularity in gift games predicts polygyny in BaYaka Pygmies. Royal Society Open Science

In order to elucidate the evolution of hunter–gatherer polygyny, we study marriage patterns of BaYaka Pygmies. We investigate (i) rates of polygyny among BaYaka hunter–gatherers; (ii) whether polygyny confers a fitness benefit to BaYaka men; (iii) in the absence of wealth inequalities, what are the alternative explanations for polygyny among the BaYaka.

May 2015

Journal article - Dyble, M. et al. (2016) Sex equality can explain the unique social structure of hunter-gatherer bands. Science

Evolutionary theory stresses the importance of living with kin, not least because they share some of our genes. Nevertheless, a large-scale assessment of contemporary hunter-gatherer societies has established a consistent pattern of unrelated individuals living together. Here we used a modelling approach to suggest that a possible answer to this conundrum is that cohabitation choices are being governed equally by men and women.

May 2015


  • Scientific Reports (2018 - current)
  • Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B (2020-2021)
  • Journal of Biosocial Science
  • PLOS One
  • Evolution and Human Behaviour
  • Biological Reviews
  • Scientific Reports
  • NSF Cultural Anthropology
  • Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B
  • Behavioral Ecology
  • Social Sciences MPI
  • American Journal of Human Biology
Academic societies
  • AAPA
  • HBA
  • BSPS
PhD and MSc Supervision
  • Dr Anushé Hassan (completed Jan 2021)
  • Annika Chambers (MSc Reproductive and Sexual Health Research)
  • Lily Bishop (MSc Demography and Health)
  • Academic lead of LSHTM Young Scientists Programme
  • LSHTM Mentor
Academic principles and commitments
  • Support
  • Kindness
  • Co-production of Knowledge
  • Diversity in Science
  • Transparency
  • Open Science
  • Capability Building
Teaching Past and Present
  • Contemporary Demographic Trends and Issues
  • Analyising Survey and Population Data
  • Population Studies
  • Population, Poverty and Enviroment
  • Statistics for Epidemiology and Public Health
  • Methods and Statistics in Evolutionary Anthropology
  • Human Behavioural Ecology
  • Methods and Research Techniques in Biological Anthropology
  • Introduction to Biological Anthropology


Research Fellow

MRC Skills Development Fellow

August 2018 - Present

Teaching Fellow

Developing and running courses in Biological Anthropology

September 2016 - August 2018

Postdoctoral Researcher

Hunter-Gatherer Resilience Project

March 2016 - August 2016

Teaching Assistant

Running undergraduate tutorials

2013 - 2016

Research Assistant

INEQ-CITIES Research Project

2012 - 2012


UCL Anthropology

PhD Biological Anthropology
Supervised by Prof Andrea B. Migliano and Prof Ruth Mace

2012 - 2016

UCL Anthropology

MSc Medical Anthropology
Supervised by Dr Jennifer Randell

2010 - 2011

University of Durham

BA Hons. Anthropology
Supervised by Dr Malcolm Smith

2006 - 2010
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