Women are more likely to have a baby after their high school friends have become mothers, according to a new study.
The researchers have called the phenomenon ‘childhood contagion’ and claim it is a trend among female friends from high school.
“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,” said study co-author Nicoletta Balbo, a postdoctoral fellow at Bocconi University, Italy.
By following more than 1,700 American women from the ages of 15 through to 30, researchers found that their results only held true for planned pregnancies, rather than unplanned ones.
“Overall, this research demonstrates that fertility decisions are not only influenced by individual characteristics and preferences, but also by the social network in which individuals are embedded,” said Balbo.
We already know that our friends can influence other social behaviours, such as smoking, drinking and fitness levels, but this is the first study of its kind to look at the effect of friendship circles on a woman’s decision to become mothers.
Balbo added in her study that having children at the same time as friends can be associated with reduced stress associated with pregnancy and childrearing, as experiences are shared.
The study, which appears in the American Sociological Review, relies on data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health in the U.S.