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.
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