Okay, so this is a blog quoting a blog quoting another blog, but I don't want to make it look like I found this item all by myself. This is a new post at Freakonomics that I like.
It's a theory that says parents continue procreating even though parenting is hard/miserable/stressful/etc, because they are addicted to the rush they get when their children do something lovely.
I love the economists.
I read stuff like this and my reactions are: recognition, partial agreement, amusement, and exasperation (bloody economists! Have to boil everything down to incentives!).
But it is a funny and clever take on parenthood from a behavioural economics-style perspective.
(Though the original article they quote is by a journalist, not an economist, and is a wonderful read)
I think it's partially true but I do think that the "addiction" to the joyful moments is actually a side-issue, tangentially related to why we "continue to procreate". Isn't the real reason just that it is such a strong biological imperative? This is enough of a reason because it is the basis of all life. All life wants to exist and then pass itself on, that's pretty much what life boils down to in its essentials. No one has to explain or defend procreating, to my mind, when it's such a basic, compelling biological urge - we often feel we more or less have no say in it.
[Which is not to say everyone has to do it, or life is nothing without it. Not at all. I don't think anyone needs to explain or defend either state - having children or not having them - both are completely natural states].
The "addiction" factor probably kicked in somewhere along the way as an adaptation that helped the process, but I don't think it is the reason.
It probably is the reason we don't always give into despair and depression at the daily grind, because we do remind ourselves about these "rewards" to balance the hard bits.
But anyway have a read, because it's good. Here's a sampler:
“The unexpected, kind, and loving things that children do produce chemical surges in their parents’ brains like the rush of the pipe or the needle. Like addicts, parents will sacrifice anything for the glimpses of heaven that their offspring periodically provide.”
- Shankar Vedantam at Slate, quoted at freakonomics
I like the "periodically" !