Parenthood can change your personality. How having a child changes everything.
A kid is a great ice-breaker. He's also a companion who's forced to hang out with you.
Research supports the idea that many people are driven to parenthood by a desire for social connection.
Scientists at the University of Helsinki compared the temperaments of nearly 2,000 young Finns at two time points nine years apart and noted how many children they had in that period. Highly sociable people were more likely than others to breed, even after controlling for their increased chances of finding partners.
Matthew Hutson is a freelance writer for Science. He covers artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, cybersecurity, and the Internet of Things. He has a bachelor’s degree in cognitive neuroscience from Brown University and a master’s degree in science writing from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where his thesis explored AI and creativity. Matt has written for Wired, The Atlantic, Newsweek, The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker online, and elsewhere. He is a former news editor for Psychology Today and is the author of The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking, about the psychology of superstition and religion. He lives in New York City.
Editor: Saad Shaheed
Lead researcher Markus Jokela guesses that sociable people find the parent-child bond more attractive. Also, parenthood can expose you to more opportunities for interaction—with family, other parents, neighbors. "Being a parent is quite a public social role," he says. Collaborator Liisa Keltikangas-Jaervinen notes that extroverts' desire for such a role is not always consciously strategic. "They enjoy children. They don't think that the children somehow help them."
Parenthood also affects personality. In guys who started off highly outgoing, sociability increased as their family size grew. But introverted guys tended to become more introverted. It's possible they focused their energies on family life instead of widening their social network.
Adult personality is usually pretty stable, but adopting pervasive social roles can modify character, Jokela says. And what's more pervasive than the smell of a dirty diaper?