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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