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Daddy Fever

It has long been speculated that the attraction between Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie is based on her desire to adopt the world's needy children, and his wish for a large family to rollick around with away from film sets.

There was sexual chemistry, undoubtedly, but this meeting of minds when it came to having a family has borne fruit, and then more fruit -- with the couple currently rearing three biological children and three adopted youngsters.

If Brad's main attraction to the Tomb Raider star was, indeed, to have a large family, then he is not alone.

Instead, it makes him one of a class of men who gets misty-eyed over babies, think toddlers are the bees knees, and views women as potential Mrs Mums.

Taken to the extreme, the stereotype may be of the baby-obsessed woman who buys babygros even when she is manless, picks out baby names to match his surname after a first date, frets about her biological clock -- and even 'forgets' to take her contraceptive pill.

But Marie Claire magazine is now debating whether a growing number of men are also becoming similarly overwrought and out of control as a consequence of baby hunger?

Some men are so keen to start a family that they are on a serious hunt for a future baby-mama, or are pressuring their current partners into having children way before they feel ready to take on a mothering role, it seems.

The magazine quotes data published in the journal Contraception, which suggests that there is even a small subset of men who will secretly remove their condoms during sex or replace birth-control pills with baby aspirin, in their bid to have a baby.

"Reproductive coercion by men is a lot more frequent than we ever could have guessed," says the study co-author Rebecca Levenson, of the Family Violence Prevention Fund.

"While some men tamper with birth control as a form of domestic violence -- keeping their women pregnant and vulnerable -- other men put on the pressure because they want their wives to slow down and start a family."

It's the extreme end of the argument, yet there are some reasons which may explain why some guys are hooked on the idea of having a perfect family, and might be very determined to find a woman to help them fulfil their parenting desires.

Social psychologist Susan Newman, PhD, author of The Case for the Only Child, says: "Women are working longer hours than ever and going back to school for advanced degrees in droves. They're delaying first and second pregnancies, and the men are getting antsy."

Meanwhile, 'Generation Y' guys (the generation of men born in the 1980s and 1990s) are more typically the product of divorce, says Dr Scott Haltzman, author of The Secrets of Happily Married Men, and he feels this may explain why they are more motivated to create an ideal family.

He reckons they're keen to be the dads they never had and that they want to have the stamina to keep up with their youngsters on the soccer field.

There is a physiological component, too, to creating the perfect family when you're young. "Men have biological clocks just like women," says Dr Harry Fisch, of Weill Cornell Medical College. "The older the guy, the older the sperm."

A random survey of men, however, resulted in no one confessing to having baby hunger -- and certainly none who admitted to slipping off condoms during sex, or sabotaging a woman's birth control pill in an attempt to have a baby.

Some would say that men are only being accused of behaving in an underhand way to have children in the same way in which women have sometimes been accused of coercing men into having children for years.

An Irish male perspective to the debate is given by Irish author Colm Liddy, a father of five and the author of the book 40 Fights Between Husbands and Wives. He says: "Most men want babies, but maybe they aren't driven to have them in the same way woman are.

"I can confidently say no man in my circle has slipped off a condom, or done any such thing. If experts say these men are out there, I'll accept there's a few men behaving this way. Men in their thirties keen to start a family is one thing, and I can see why they might want to create an ideal family, but young men tricking women into having babies -- I can honestly say that is a new one on me."