London: We know that friends and peers influence one another on adopting or shunning behaviours like smoking, drinking or exercise but having children?
If we believe researchers, having children is contagious among female high school friends during early adulthood.
“The study shows the contagion is particularly strong within a short window of time: it increases immediately after a high school friend gives birth, reaches a peak about two years later, and then decreases, becoming negligible in the long-run,” explained Nicoletta Balbo, a postdoctoral fellow at Bocconi University in Italy.
In their study, Balbo and co-author Nicola Barban from University of Groningen in the Netherlands, focused on over 1,700 American women who were tracked from when they were at least 15-years-old through approximately age 30.
The researchers looked only at the impact of female high school friends on the birth of first children and their findings only held true for planned pregnancies.
“Being surrounded by friends who are new parents makes people feel pressure to have kids as well. By observing their friends, people learn how to fulfill this new role,” Barban explained.
Having children at the same time as friends may bring about many advantages - friends can share the childbearing experience and thus reduce the stresses associated with pregnancy and childrearing.
“It's also easier for people to remain friends when they are experiencing parenthood at the same time,” the authors said in the study appeared in the journal American Sociological Review.
Several sociological theories have proposed social influence as an important factor for shaping fertility choices.
“We believe our study is the first to show this type of connection among friends,” Balbo noted.