The scientific reason why people use pet names for their partners

Surprise surprise, it comes down to your parents

Rachel Hosie
Sunday 10 December 2017 11:24
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You swore you’d never do it.

“Baby,” “honey,” “sweetie.” No, hearing other couples call each other such names used to make you shudder.

But then you found yourself in a loving relationship, and lo and behold, you started using baby names for your partner too.

Why does this happen? Well, it turns out there’s a scientific reason. And, like most things, it comes down to your parents.

“Baby talk is used really extensively, including cross-culturally, by mothers around the world,” Florida State University neuroanthropologist Professor Dean Falk told Broadly.

“It exists for language acquisition in infants, and it also expresses love and facilitates bonding between the mother and the infant,” she says.

Studies have shown that young children love baby talk and being called terms of endearment, especially from their mother.

Falk believes that the reason people in relationships use pet names for their partners is because they’re harking back to their own childhood experience and to their first love, their mother.

So it’s a natural way to bond with your girlfriend or boyfriend.

However other scientists argue that using baby names also helps people feel open and comfortable with their partner.

“It allows both people a certain freedom from the normal constraints of adult roles,” says Professor Frank Nuessel of the University of Louisville.

And another reason we call each other “babe,” “sweetheart” and “sugarpuff” (or your term of endearment of choice) is that doing so taps into our innate desire to play.

“When we’re young, all animals learn by play,” says psychotherapist Dr. Nan Wise.

“These social connections are critical for wellbeing. So using baby talk to each other is a way of facilitating these innate bonding systems of play, and care.”

So don’t feel bad about about having a soppy nickname for your partner - it may actually be bringing you closer together.

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