Interesting that I had just blogged Alicia Chenaux's thoughts on roleplaying as the virtual mother of virtual children (who are adults themselves), when up pops this fascinating Inverse story about two academics studying that very phenomena:
The exact why people are looking to live as children, and tangentially why other users what to act as their parents, is what more analysis will reveal to Loveland and Gilbert before they can make any definitive claims. But they do have a research-supported hypothesis, which was recently presented to the Western Psychological Association. “The hypothesis is that both the child and the parental avatars are motivated to explore these roles as a kind of corrective emotional experience,” Gilbert tells Inverse. “This may be because of traumatic or difficult experiences in childhood, so that in effect both child and parental avatars are trying to recreate a family that would be a more positive, and hopefully healing, experience.”
That description fits the experiences of Alicia, who is physically unable to have children in real life, or this profile of someone who roleplays as a child and reports being a child abuse survivor.