Men suffer from 'baby fever' as well as women, study reveals

Men suffer from 'baby fever' as well as women, study reveals

A new study has revealed that men - as well as women - suffer from 'baby fever', the overwhelming desire to have children.

The emotional and physical phenomenon is usually associated with women, who can be subject to sudden and extreme maternal urges. Gary Brase, associate professor of psychology at Kansas State University, and his wife Sandra, a project co-ordinator with the university's College of Education, have spent nearly 10 years researching baby fever.

After releasing their findings yesterday Professor Brase said: 'Baby fever is this idea out in popular media that at some point in their lives, people get this sudden change in their desire to have children.

'While it is often portrayed in women, we noticed it in men, too.' The couple's interest began shortly after the birth of their second child, as Mrs Brase explained: 'Although one hears about people having baby fever from friends, family and in the media, I was curious if there was a scientific explanation for the presence, or lack of it, in both women and men.'

While some research has looked at the demographic and sociological aspects of having children, there had been no study from a psychological perspective, she said. The researchers started by applying three theoretical viewpoints about baby fever.

One is the socio-cultural view: People want to have a baby because they are taught gender roles. Women think they should have children because society dictates that is what they are supposed to do. A second reason is the by-product view: Humans have an engrained desire to nurture - when they see a cute baby they want to take care of it, and that makes them want a baby of their own.

The third is the adaptationist view: Baby fever is an emotional signal - like a suggestion sent from one part of the mind to the other parts - that this could be a good time to have a child.

The researchers then carried out studies to understand people's desires, particularly the wish to have a baby.

Professor Brase said: 'Sometimes you may have a desire to have a baby, sometimes you have desires to have money or be famous or have sex. 'We asked people to tell us where these desires ranked.'

The researchers found that baby fever existed in both genders. But while women more frequently desired having a child than having sex, men more frequently desired sex than having a child.

'We found this kind of ironic because sex and having a baby are causally related,' Professor Brase said. The researchers also asked people to describe what led them to want and not want to have a baby and found three contributing factors.

The first was positive exposure - such as holding and cuddling babies. The second included negative exposure - such as babies crying, children having tantrums and nappies. The third factor included trade-offs that come with having children - education, career, money and social life.

Professor Brase said: 'We had people who were high on the positive aspects and they see all the good things about babies and want a baby. 'We also had people who were high on the negative aspects and absolutely do not want to have babies. 'Then we had people who were high on both positive and negative aspects and were very conflicted.

'Having children is kind of the reason we exist - to reproduce and pass our genes on to the next generation. 'But economically, having children is expensive and you don't get any decent financial return on this investment. And yet, here we are, actual people kind of stuck in the middle.'

The Kansas State University research appears in the upcoming issue of Emotion, which is published by the American Psychological Association.

Article: 24th August 2011

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