As a 40-something, married father of two, I’ve experienced a lot of transitions in my life, including some particularly big ones over the past decade or so. I started a new job, got married, had a kid, bought a house, and had another kid. Importantly, I’m not unique in this regard --- many of the people I know my age have gone through most, if not all, of these same transitions (albeit perhaps in a different order).
Although I didn’t really notice it at the time, my movement through these life transitions generally occurred in the ballpark of my friends doing the same things. How can I forget the ‘wedding years’, when I was finally forced to buy a suit. And then there was the breeding extravaganza that happened a few years later. Is it a coincidence that many of my friends also have kids within a few years age of my own? Perhaps not. In fact, it’s very likely that the decisions my wife and I made about starting a family were influenced by what we saw going on around us.
Simply put, others influence our thoughts about fertility. For example, adolescents are more likely to become sexually active, and make choices about whether to do so and take appropriate precautions, if their friends are doing the same (You don’t use condoms? Then me neither! Let’s compare babies and rashes!). In a recent study, researchers wanted to see just how far a reach friends have on women’s sexual and fertility behaviors by testing whether female friends’ transitions to parenthood increase a given woman’s own transition to parenthood. Put another way: Is a woman’s fertility contagious?