Brain Changes In New Parents
September 10, 2010 2:20 PM   Subscribe

I recently read about a study that found the brain thinks in more security-oriented ways after the birth of one's first child. I can no longer find it. Folk wisdom seems to say that once you have a child, your values usually change and you are a different person. Is there research for or against chemical and neurological changes in parents?
posted by matt_arnold to Science & Nature (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
it's not exactly in line with your question, but i find it to be compelling evidence that our brains and perceptions change after having kids.

moms prefer the smell of their own baby's poop.
posted by nadawi at 2:42 PM on September 10, 2010

Parenthood causes hormonal changes in both women and men. Hormones have a very powerful effect on behavior.
posted by Andrhia at 2:55 PM on September 10, 2010

This doesn't answer your question either but I found a more serious change when I had my second child. Because you can no longer carry your family out of a burning building (you would only be able to carry one child at a time) or, worse for me, you would not be able to swim with BOTH of your children out of a submerged car you would only be able to save one (my personal nightmare). So I was much more vigilante about smoke detectors and driving carefully near bodies of water after my second child.
posted by cda at 3:01 PM on September 10, 2010 [3 favorites]

Oh, God, I never thought of that.

[17 weeks pg with child #2]
posted by Knowyournuts at 4:24 PM on September 10, 2010

Of course, a lot of the Type A types I know mellowed after a year or so because with kids you just have to give up - they're gonna do what they're gonna do and you have to learn to roll with it.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 8:33 PM on September 10, 2010

Personally, I found some of the changes to start while still pregnant! I would call it an oversensitivity to real or perceived threats, be they physical, emotional, or even space-time continuum. I don't know of any studies proving the point, but it certainly makes good evolutionary sense to have a heightened sense of awareness about safety when dealing with a mostly-helpless child, don't you think?
posted by Asparagirl at 11:01 PM on September 10, 2010

> you can no longer carry your family out of a burning building (you would only be able to carry one child at a time)

I have to ask for clarification on this. We have a four-year-old and are thinking about a second child. I feel up to the task of carrying a five-year-old and a baby at the same time. Are you imagining that you need a hand free at all times to perform this burning-building task?
posted by AmbroseChapel at 2:32 AM on September 11, 2010

Hmmm... I'm not a parent but hope to soon be (due in 3 months!) and I can't really imagine that your values and your person changes. Some things will take on clarity, become more relevant to your lives but I really can't imagine my values changing.

However, in terms of security, with my parents it was sort of hilarious. My mom could hear any kind of tap, cough, rustle or peep out of her kids in the night. Dad? No clue. Now, if one of those kids was messing with the lock on the front door? Full alarm mode from Dad. He was very security conscious. That seems sort of stereotypical of genders so I always found it funny. However, my Dad was sort of an overly anxious person anyway who kept an arsenal of guns and other weapons. Mostly he was a collector but I think he also liked that he could blow those imagined bad guys away. I'm sure when he had kids, some of that anxiety at least had a purpose.

I'm always more safety conscious when caring or watching out for others. Seems natural.
posted by amanda at 11:23 AM on September 11, 2010

Although this wouldn't get into the specific neuro mechanisms, a great social psych article in this area is this one:

Eibach, R.P., Libby, L.K., & Gilovich, T.D. (2003). When change in the self is mistaken for change in the world. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84. 917-931.
posted by bizzyb at 6:46 PM on September 11, 2010

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