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'Baby Fever' is Real — Guys Have It, Too

Friday, 26 August 2011 12:35 PM

Do visions of cuddly babies strike you out of the blue, and you find yourself getting gooey-eyed? We see it in the movies and on television when a character realizes they want to have a child — and you may have even caught yourself dreaming about the pitter-patter of little feet. It's often connected with a ticking biological clock. "It" can be summarized in two words — baby fever — and guys get it, too.

The phenomenon is real, say researchers from Kansas State University. Gary Brase, associate professor of psychology, and his wife, Sandra Brase, a project coordinator with the university's College of Education, have spent nearly 10 years researching baby fever: the physical and emotional desire to have a baby.

"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," Gary Brase said in a press release. "While it is often portrayed in women, we noticed it in men, too."

The Brases became interested in baby fever after the birth of their second child. "I noticed a distinct difference in my desire to have more children," Sandra Brase said. "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 previous study from a psychological perspective, Sandra Brase said. The new research appears in the American Psychological Associationn's upcoming issue of Emotion.

The Brases started by applying three different theoretical viewpoints to explain why baby fever might exist and where it came from. The sociocultural element involved women thinking they should have children because society tells them it's what they should do. The second element has to do with nurturing — the sight of a baby prompts the element of nurturing which transfers to their wanting a baby of their own. The third idea had to do with timing — that the sight of a baby was an emotional signal that tells the mind that this could be a good time to have a baby. But none of the three theories panned out when the Brases talked to their test subjects.

The researchers then performed studies to understand people's desires, particularly the desire to have a baby.

"Sometimes you may have a desire to have a baby, sometimes you have desires to have money or be famous or have sex," said Gary Brase, whose research focuses on judgment and decision-making. "We asked people to tell us where these desires ranked."

The researchers found that baby fever did exist, and it existed in both genders. But women wanted to have a child more frequently than they wanted to have sex. Men were the opposite and desired sex more frequently than having a child.

The researchers also asked people to describe what led them to want and not want to have a baby, and created a questionnaire based on their responses.

The researchers found three factors that consistently predicted how much a person wanted to have a baby. The first factor was positive exposure — such as holding and cuddling babies, looking after babies and looking at baby clothes and toys — that made people want to have a baby. The second factor was negative exposure — such as babies crying, children having tantrums and diapers, spit-up or other 'disgusting' aspects of babies — that made people not want to have a baby. The third factor included trade-offs that come with having children — education, career, money and social life.

"We had people who were high on the positive aspects and they see all the good things about babies and want a baby," Gary Brase said. "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 about children.

"Having children is kind of the reason we exist — to reproduce and pass our genes on to the next generation," he said. "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."

© HealthDay

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Friday, 26 August 2011 12:35 PM
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