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The Parent Trap: Addiction

Shankar Vedantam of Slate hypothesizes that people continue to procreate, despite overwhelming evidence that parenting isn’t very fun, for much the same reason that cocaine users can’t quit: they’re addicts. Comparing oxytocin to narcotics, Vedantam writes: “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.” Furthermore, the roller coaster of parenting seems designed to ensure addiction. “The unpredictability of those moments of bliss is an important factor in their addictiveness,” writes Vedantam. “If you give animals a predictable reward – say, a shot of sugar every time they press a lever – you can get them to press that lever quite regularly. But if you want irrational and addictive behavior, you make the reward unpredictable.” [%comments]