Pregnancy Is Contagious

Does it seem like all your high school friends are having babies at the same time? You’re not crazy.

National Journal
Brian Resnick
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Brian Resnick
May 29, 2014, 7:56 a.m.
“The study shows the con­ta­gion is par­tic­u­larly strong with­in a short win­dow of time.”

It starts slowly. A baby shows up on your Face­book feed. Your friends, like you, are get­ting older, set­tling down and start­ing fam­il­ies. Pretty soon, your en­tire news­feed is flooded with tiny chil­dren covered in what was sup­posed to be their first ex­per­i­ence with sol­id food, birth­day parties, and all the small mile­stones of a child’s de­vel­op­ment (“his first wink!”).

It’s an epi­dem­ic of cute, in which every one of your old high school friends seems to be hav­ing chil­dren around the same time. And new re­search says you’re not crazy to think so.

Preg­nancy is con­ta­gious. That’s the con­clu­sion of a study just pub­lished in the Amer­ic­an So­ci­olo­gic­al Re­view; the de­cision to have a child is in­flu­enced by so­cial net­works stretch­ing back to high school. “A friend’s child­bear­ing pos­it­ively in­flu­ences an in­di­vidu­al’s risk of be­com­ing a par­ent,” the study con­cludes, with a phras­ing re­min­is­cent of “friends don’t let friends do drugs.”

Fur­ther­more, “an in­di­vidu­al’s risk of child­bear­ing starts in­creas­ing after a friend’s child­bear­ing,” reach­ing “a peak around two years later.” Coau­thor Nicoletta Balbo summed those res­ults up like this in a press re­lease: “The study shows the con­ta­gion is par­tic­u­larly strong with­in a short win­dow of time.” Like the flu.

Though this isn’t about high school preg­nancy pacts and teen moms. (Teen preg­nancy rates are ac­tu­ally at their low­est in years.) This study looked at the ef­fects of high school friends 15 years on, fol­low­ing 1,700 wo­men tracked from the age of 15 to around 30. In the group, the me­di­an age for birth of the first child was 27.

The re­search also didn’t find any link between high school friends and un­in­ten­ded preg­nan­cies. The im­plic­a­tion here is in­tu­it­ive: Friends in­flu­ence ma­jor life de­cisions.

“Hav­ing a child (or not) is the out­come of sev­er­al in­ter­re­lated de­cisions and be­ha­vi­ors, ran­ging from com­mit­ting to a uni­on, to hav­ing sex, us­ing con­tra­cep­tion, and hav­ing an abor­tion,” the au­thors write. “Each ac­tion may be in­flu­enced by peers’ and friends’ be­ha­vi­ors.”

With fam­il­ies grow­ing smal­ler, the re­search­ers sug­gest that peer groups are tak­ing the place of sib­lings. It’s nat­ur­al to want your child to grow up around cous­ins. Aside from the so­cial­iz­a­tion be­ne­fits, there are some cost-shar­ing be­ne­fits as well (free babysit­ting ar­range­ments, car­pools, etc.) as hav­ing chil­dren around the same time. Where­as in the past, people might have looked to sib­lings for such sup­port, it may be now that they look more to friends.

“We as­sume that hav­ing friends with whom in­di­vidu­als can share their ex­per­i­ences as par­ents may re­duce the un­cer­tainty as­so­ci­ated with par­ent­hood,” the au­thors write.

High school, wheth­er many of us would like to ad­mit it or not, can set the tra­ject­ory of the rest of our lives. And a lot of times, it’s for the bet­ter. For one, con­sider that lifelong friend­ships are cor­rel­ated with longev­ity. In times when in­di­vidu­als are no­mad­ic, and fam­il­ies are smal­ler, it’s nice to know that the in­flu­ence of a good friend doesn’t fade, even over a dec­ade.

What We're Following See More »
DOCUMENTS OBTAINED BY U.S. INTEL
Putin-Linked Think Tank Developed Plan to Influence U.S. Election
3 days ago
THE LATEST

A Russian government think tank run by Putin loyalists "developed a plan to swing the 2016 U.S. presidential election to Donald Trump and undermine voters’ faith in the American electoral system." Two confidential documents from the Putin-backed Institute for Strategic Studies, obtained by U.S. intelligence, provide "the framework and rationale for what U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded was an intensive effort by Russia to interfere with the Nov. 8 election."

Source:
HELPED WIN FISA APPROVAL
FBI Relied on Dossier Allegations to Monitor Page
4 days ago
THE LATEST

"The FBI last year used a dossier of allegations of Russian ties to Donald Trump's campaign as part of the justification" to monitor Carter Page, who was then a defense adviser to the Trump campaign. "The dossier has also been cited by FBI Director James Comey in some of his briefings to members of Congress in recent weeks."

Source:
AIR FORCE SCRAMBLES JETS IN RESPONSE
Russian Bombers Fly Near Alaska
5 days ago
WHY WE CARE
A MESSAGE TO RUSSIA?
Pentagon Deploying F-35s to Europe
1 weeks ago
THE LATEST

"The Air Force is set to deploy its high-tech, fifth-generation F-35A fighter jets to Europe this weekend as part of an effort to assure U.S. allies there who are worried about Russian aggression." The new, state-of-the-art fighters will train with European air units. "The Pentagon noted that the deployment had been long planned, meaning it was not a reaction to recent increasing tensions between the United States and Russia," although a statement noted the move is part of the "European Reassurance Initiative," which began three years ago when Russia annexed Crimea.

Source:
NOT ON SCHEDULE
Tillerson Meets Putin
1 weeks ago
BREAKING
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login