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What Causes ‘Baby Fever’ in Adults?


Some people become emotionally overwhelmed when they see or hold a small baby. They develop a longing to have a baby, even when they may already have children. In popular culture, this phenomenon is known as “baby fever.” This type of event can happen to virtually anyone. However, it seems to affect only certain people, while others appear to be immune. The curious nature of “baby fever” was of interest to Gary L. Brase at the Department of Psychology at Kansas State University, so he decided to conduct a series of studies to determine if there were biological causes for the phenomenon and why it occurs.

Brase recruited 853 nonstudent young adults and 337 college students and measured their desire for a baby, if this desire differed by gender, and how it related to sexual desire, emotions, and experience with other children. After an exhaustive examination, Brase found evidence for the existence of “baby fever.” “Three factors strongly and consistently underlie desire for a baby: Positive Exposure, Negative Exposure, and Tradeoffs,” Brase wrote. One contributing factor that led to “baby fever” was positive experience with children. Individuals who had bad experiences with children were less likely to develop “baby fever” than those who had only good experiences. Trade-offs also played a major role. Participants who were comfortable with trading time, intimacy, financial resources, and energy for a baby were at increased risk of “baby fever” when compared to those who were less willing to trade those commodities.

Although Brase discovered that the desire for a baby was present in men and women alike, it was more evident in the women. He also noted that desire for sex was quite different than the desire for a baby for both sexes. Despite the fact sex leads to babies, the reproductive/sexual desire is independent from the desire to nurture and parent. The results of this study clearly show that “baby fever” is a unique occurrence unrelated to sexual motivation and cultural expectations, but future research should look further at the psychological origins.

Brase, Gary L., and Sandra L. Brase. Emotional regulation of fertility decision making: What is the nature and structure of “baby fever”? Emotion 12.5 (2012): 1141-154. Print.

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  • amy November 2nd, 2012 at 10:40 PM #1

    have never one across anyone with baby fever.sounds weird to want to have a baby just by interacting with one.maybe it is the people’s fears and insecurities looking for a means to feel safe again?not really sure but I think this could well be due to that or other fears because babies are seen as harmless and the longing to have someone harmless would stem from fear I’d reckon.

  • shay g November 3rd, 2012 at 4:38 AM #2

    One of the biggest reasons that I think that I got baby fever was I was seeing all of my friends getting pregnant and I decided that it was time for me to have a baby too. I had to do a little convincing with my husband because I’m not sure that he was really on the same time frame that I was- he didn’t have that feeling like I did. But you know, eventually he got on the same page as me and it all worked out really well. I think that another thing that helped is just because I decided it was time didn’t mean that I got pregnant right aawy, so that by the time I did he was excited and ready as I was.

  • Blaine November 3rd, 2012 at 2:51 PM #3

    Who knows. . . insanity maybe ? ;)

  • Rob November 3rd, 2012 at 11:59 PM #4

    I’ve seen some people being so attached to babies they see but I’m not sure it was baby fever.Maybe some of us are just designed to be more attracted to babies and their innocence,even if we have our own children.It has got to be something more than just a desire to have your own children because baby fever is seen even in people who have their own Children already.

  • shayne November 5th, 2012 at 5:01 AM #5

    Biology, plain and simple.
    You start feeling that pressure of getting older, feeling like it might be now or never, and you are not sure of you can accept never.
    So you start thinking why not? seems like a good time. And everyone else is doing it so why not?
    Not really the best reasons to decide to have a child, but can’t tell me that this doesn’t happen more than we think that it does.

  • Sandra November 5th, 2012 at 9:10 AM #6

    Baby fever and sexual desire cannot be linked by natural selection design. In order for the species to continue, one must be independent of the other. Otherwise, when one no longer wants any more children, one will stop having sex. No more sex equals no more babies. No more babies equals the end of the species. Sometimes, you get a baby whether you want it or not! In this way, the species is allowed to continue based on human sexuality rather than baby fever.

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