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Self‐transcendence as a psychological parenthood motive: When mortality salience increases the desire for non‐biological children

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European Journal of Social Psychology

Published online on


Reminders of existential threat increase people's desire for offspring. In line with terror management theory, we explain these effects by the motivation to transcend the self via offspring which complements biological accounts of reproduction motivation under threat. Accordingly, Study 1 shows that mortality salience increases self‐transcendence motivation but not other parenthood motivations. Furthermore, mortality salience increased willingness to adopt children (Study 2) or a 14‐year‐old child (Study 3) only for those participants who were told that the personality of children is the product of nurture (and thus determined by their parent's self). In addition, mortality salience increased general willingness to adopt, irrespective of whether nurture or genetic influence was made salient in Study 3, where participants imagined being unable to have biological offspring. We discuss how these findings contribute to explaining increased reproduction intentions under existential threat and processes of terror management.