Existential function of babies: Babies as a buffer of death-related anxiety

Xinyue Zhou, Qijia Lei, Scott C. Marley, Jinsong Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


The present study examined babies as death anxiety buffers with Chinese participants in three experiments. In Experiment 1, death-related thoughts increased college-aged participants' interest in human babies. In Experiment 2, images of newborn animals reduced the number of death-related thoughts recorded by college-aged participants. In Experiment 3, female factory workers who read news articles describing deaths of babies had pessimistic estimations of their own life expectancies. An explanation of these results is provided within a terror management theory framework, with a primary focus on how babies reinforce cultural worldviews and enhance self-esteem via the notion of symbolic immortality. Thus, the anxiety-buffering function of baby is subsumed under cultural worldviews validation and self-esteem enhancement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)40-46
Number of pages7
JournalAsian Journal of Social Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Baby
  • Coping mechanism
  • Mortality salience
  • Terror management theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • General Social Sciences


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