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Study shows how contagious it is to have children
It has long been known that the social environment, such as friends, acquaintances and colleagues, can influence our preferences and decisions. This influence even has an impact on childbearing, as a study has now shown.
A research team from Bamberg, together with colleagues, researched the effects of social contacts on fertility in a study. They found that having children can be infectious.
Cross-network effects identified for the first time
Another colleague is pregnant again and her own brother has just become a father: As the University of Bamberg writes in a statement, social contacts and networks can have a major impact on the decision to have a child. But how strong are such contagion effects?
The State Institute for Family Research (ifb) and the Professorship for Demography at the University of Bamberg have already examined several different networks such as family and work. In the latest study "Family, Firms, and Fertility: A Study of Social Interaction Effects" (Family, Firms, and Fertility: A Study of Social Interaction Effects), the research team found cross-network effects for the first time.
The results were published in the specialist journal "Demography".
Information about siblings and about employers
The study was carried out by four family researchers: Prof. Dr. Henriette Engelhardt-Wölfler from the University of Bamberg, Zafer Büyükkeçeci from the Humboldt University in Berlin and Prof. Thomas Leopold and Prof. Ruben I. Van Gaalen from the University of Amsterdam.
Büyükkeçeci evaluated data from the 'System of Social Statistical Datasets' (SSD) - a data source in which various register data of all residents of the Netherlands are linked.
The data set contains information about siblings and employers, so that the research team was able to combine the two areas.
Underlying mechanisms not examined in detail
"With the data we were able to show that it is more likely to have a child if siblings have one," said Engelhardt-Wölfler. "In addition, we were able to demonstrate spillover effects across network boundaries for the first time."
This means a kind of chain reaction: If a person is infected by colleagues who want to have children, they in turn affect their siblings. And these then have an impact on their own colleagues.
Conversely, people of childbearing age who hardly experience births in their environment are less likely to have children. The mechanisms underlying the contagion could not be examined in detail with the available data. (ad)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
- University of Bamberg: How contagious it is to have children, (accessed: February 11, 2020), University of Bamberg
- Zafer Buyukkececi, Thomas Leopold, Ruben van Gaalen, Henriette Engelhardt: Family, Firms, and Fertility: A Study of Social Interaction Effects; in: Demography, (published: 06.01.2020), Demography