Transnational family Research institute


Aptos, CA


Why We Have Children:

Building a Unified Theory of the Reproductive Mind

A Brief Description of Ongoing Work Devoted to this Topic

During the last three or four decades, systematic behavioral science research has considerably expanded our perspectives on the psychological antecedents of childbearing.  However, there have been virtually no efforts to present a comprehensive synthesis of what has been learned.  At the same time, there has been an explosion of knowledge in the biological sciences.  With this new knowledge has come a far greater capacity to understand the neural substrate of human reproductive motivation.  This period has also witnessed an escalating growth in our understanding of interpersonal processes.  Part of this growth has involved the development of new models of dyadic (couple) decision-making and emotion exchange.  In spite of these new scientific developments at both the biological and dyadic levels, efforts to integrate this knowledge with our understanding of human reproductive psychology have been quite limited.  So it seems timely to bring these three levels –the psychological, biological, and dyadic- together in a more systematic way. 

In this section of the website I present a series of unpublished papers that represent such a synthesis from the perspective of a psychiatrist and behavioral scientist who has been deeply immersed in empirical and theoretical research on human reproductive motivation for the past 35 years. Currently, three completed manuscripts have been posted at

  The first manuscript considers some of the different reasons for having children that have been suggested by both laymen and scholars. The second gives an overview of a proposed unified theory, with a focus on its evolutionary underpinnings.  The two central ideas of this theory are that the forces driving human reproduction derive largely from the motivational and emotional systems that have evolved to promote our social bonding, and that the expression of these forces affects behavior at both the individual and dyadic (couple) level. The third manuscript describes a four step motivational sequence that leads to reproductive behavior in humans, and then uses this framework to discuss what recent research tells us about how consciousness, executive functions, and the brain’s neural substrate relate to the motivational substrate.

Two additional manuscripts are in preparation. The first discusses how recent social neuroscience findings inform our understanding of the ontogenetic bonding system, first described by Miller and Rodgers in 2001. The second manuscript considers the role played by social bonding, and the neural system that underlies it, in moral behavior. Further manuscripts will be announced on this site when they are in the initial planning stage.