From the Grave to the Cradle: Evidence That Mortality Salience Engenders a Desire for Offspring

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mortality salience, desire for offspring, gender, procreation, existential concerns, worldviews, terror management theory

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On the basis of terror management theory, the authors hypothesized that reminders of mortality (mortality salience) should promote the desire for offspring to the extent that it does not conflict with other self-relevant worldviews that also serve to manage existential concerns. In 3 studies, men, but not women, desired more children after mortality salience compared with various control conditions. In support of the authors' hypothesis that women's desire for offspring was inhibited as a function of concerns about career success, Study 3 showed that career strivings moderated the effect of mortality salience on a desire for offspring for female participants only; furthermore, Study 4 revealed that when the compatibility of having children and a career was made salient, female participants responded to mortality salience with an increased number of desired children. Taken together, the findings suggest that a desire for offspring can function as a terror management defense mechanism.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, v. 89, issue 1, p. 46-61.