Did You Know That Pregnancy Is Contagious?
Turns out pregnancy is catching, especially if you’re hanging out on Facebook. A new study published in today’s American Sociological Review suggests that social media (specifically looking at photos of your high school friends’ new babies online), may in fact encourage other friends to head down the path to first-time parenthood as well.
To conduct their study, researchers focused on friendships between 1,700 women, ages 15 to 30. This “contagion,” as it is compared, is seen soon after one friend gives birth, peaks after two years, and fades out soon afterwards, according to the authors. Co-author Nicola Barban, a post-doctoral fellow in sociology at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, writes:
It takes time to have a child— because there is a natural period before conception and because the desire to have a child develops over time. As a result, the effect of a friend giving birth is not immediate. If we had observed an immediate effect, we would have concluded that, rather than being influenced by each other, friends just decide to have children at the same time.
Researchers have a couple theories on why female friends tend to have babies around the same time. By nature (and certainly the rise of social media has something to do with it as well), people compare themselves to their friends. Social envy travels worldwide thanks to the help of Facebook and Instagram. Adorable photos of little newborn babies are catching, my friends!
Secondly, the more practical reason. It’s fun to have friends who are in the same stage of life as you. Even today, with a 4- and 2-year-old, it’s a comforting thing to speak to friends of mine who are dealing with similar struggles and joys of parenthood like I am. There’s nothing like commiserating with another friend who’s breastfeeding at 3 AM like you are, while messaging on Facebook, of course!
Studies come and go, but I really think the researchers here are on to something. Did you find that other friends were pregnant at the same time as you?
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