Mother's milk: an existential perspective on negative reactions to breast-feeding

Pers Soc Psychol Bull. 2007 Jan;33(1):110-22. doi: 10.1177/0146167206294202.


Drawing from an existential perspective rooted in terror management theory, four studies examined the hypothesis that breast-feeding women serve as reminders of the physical, animal nature of humanity and that such recognition is threatening in the face of one's unalterable mortality. Study 1 demonstrated that mortality salience (MS) led to more negative reactions toward a scenario depicting a woman breast-feeding her infant in public, and in Study 2, MS decreased liking and increased physical avoidance of a potential task partner described as breast-feeding in another room. Further supporting the hypothesis that such reactions are rooted in threats associated with human creatureliness, MS in conjunction with a breast-feeding prime led to an increase in the accessibility of creaturely related cognitions (Study 3) and priming human/animal similarities (i.e., creatureliness) led to increased negativity toward a magazine cover depicting a woman breast-feeding her child (Study 4). Implications of this research are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Affect*
  • Attitude to Death*
  • Attitude*
  • Breast Feeding*
  • Fear
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Milk, Human*
  • Mothers*