This week, the BBC headline Concerns raised over teenage pregnancy ‘magic dolls’ caught my attention. In a course of a programme to prevent teenage pregnancy, Western Australian girls were given baby dolls to look after that simulate the needs of a new baby. The baby simulator programme, which was meant to put girls off having a baby, however, backfired. Rather than making it less likely for girls to have a baby or an abortion by the age of 20, the programme made both more likely.
The only thing I found strange about this finding is that some people apparently thought it would work in the first place! (My husband immediately suggested the idea could have only come from male researchers…). If the experience of looking after a baby would be that off-putting, our species would have gone extinct a long time ago. There is no immediate, measurable benefit of raising a child, and yet it is in our instinct – rewarding enough to keep us all going.
Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution” (Dobzhansky 1973) springs to mind….