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MAKE OR BREAK

Coronavirus quarantines will likely lead to an uptick in babies and divorces

Lit windows of homes in Ronda, Spain, where people are confined inside due to the coronavirus outbreak.
REUTERS/Jon Nazca
Homes in Ronda, Spain, where people are confined inside due to the coronavirus outbreak.
  • Olivia Goldhill
By Olivia Goldhill

Science reporter

New York

Stay inside, they said. Don’t leave the house. Whether following guidance for those who may have been exposed to coronavirus or choosing to self-isolate to help slow the spread, people around the world are faced with managing relationships with family members and partners while in close confines for weeks on end.

“Scary times have the potential to drive people together or apart,” Pepper Schwartz, a psychology professor at the University of Washington told Quartz in an email. On the one hand, romantic partners could have “a new appreciation for having someone to face a scary future with. On the other hand, if you are at odds with one another, and you realize this is not the person who has your back, or not the person you want to have your back, it might be a stark realization that you are in the wrong relationship.” Dramatic times tend to heighten emotions and outcomes, Schwartz says.

Psychologists expect two sociological outcomes from quarantine: increased birth rates and divorces. Research suggests that when people are forced to stay home together during natural disasters, there tends to be an uptick in fertility nine months later, notes Daniel Kruger, a social and evolutionary psychologist at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health. While the relationship between disaster and birth rate is far from definitively proven, it makes intuitive sense that some couples will end up with a new family member nine months after being cooped up without social distractions.

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