The biological clock. Baby fever. Whatever you call it, the desire to have a baby is often described as a physical urge or condition. Now, a pair of married researchers at Kansas State University have fleshed out more about the psychology at play.
First off, it's not only women with visions of baby booties dancing in their minds.
"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, an associate professor of psychology said in a release. "While it is often portrayed in women, we noticed it in men, too."
Prof. Brase and his wife, Sandra Brase, a project co-ordinator with the university's College of Education, looked at various possible explanations for baby fever, including societal pressure on women and a desire to nurture. (They'll be looking at the role of hormones in a future study.)
They found that a person's exposure to babies was key. "Positive exposure," such as holding and cuddling babies and looking at infant clothes and toys, made people want to have a child.
Not surprisingly, crying babies, tantrums, diapers and other "disgusting" aspects of babies turned people off. The costs and trade-offs associated with career, money and social life also cools the fever.
"We had people who were high on the positive aspects and they see all the good things about babies and want a baby," Prof. 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 continued. "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 couple's research paper will appear in the next issue of the journal Emotion, published by the American Psychological Association.
Parents, do you think being exposed to cute babies ignited baby fever for you? Non-parents, did seeing a tantrum or explosive diaper turn you off forever?