Cross-cultural estimation of the human generation interval for use in genetics-based population divergence studies

Am J Phys Anthropol. 2005 Oct;128(2):415-23. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.20188.


The length of the human generation interval is a key parameter when using genetics to date population divergence events. However, no consensus exists regarding the generation interval length, and a wide variety of interval lengths have been used in recent studies. This makes comparison between studies difficult, and questions the accuracy of divergence date estimations. Recent genealogy-based research suggests that the male generation interval is substantially longer than the female interval, and that both are greater than the values commonly used in genetics studies. This study evaluates each of these hypotheses in a broader cross-cultural context, using data from both nation states and recent hunter-gatherer societies. Both hypotheses are supported by this study; therefore, revised estimates of male, female, and overall human generation interval lengths are proposed. The nearly universal, cross-cultural nature of the evidence justifies using these proposed estimates in Y-chromosomal, mitochondrial, and autosomal DNA-based population divergence studies.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison*
  • DNA, Mitochondrial* / genetics
  • Family Characteristics*
  • Female
  • Genetics, Population*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Genetic*


  • DNA, Mitochondrial