When it comes to when to have children, women get a lot of mixed signals. Some people say to have children young, when it’s easier to chase after them on the playground and take them to Mommy and Me yoga classes. Other people say to wait until you are older and can buy a home in the good school district and a minivan with all the safety features to tote the kids to soccer practice. Now science is weighing in on the debate.
A recent study from Aarhus University in Denmark reveals that, overall, the average maternal age has steadily increased over the last decade. It’s not just in Denmark, either. Statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that, from 2000 to 2014, the amount of first births of women aged 30 to 34 increased 28 percent, and those over age 35 went up 23 percent. Contrary to popular belief, that might be a good thing.
According to the new study, mothers over the age of 35 tend to worry less about their pregnancies. Since stress can be bad for growing babies, staying calm is important. After they are born, children of older mothers tend to have fewer behavioral difficulties during elementary and middle school than those born to mothers who are younger.
According to the researchers, it seems older mothers have more stable relationships, more education, and more material resources making for an overall more positive outlook when it comes to the trials and tribulations of parenting. They know more about pregnancy and child rearing, and have the financial resources to make raising a kid just a little easier.
These benefits were passed along to their children, too. According to the researchers, kids with older mothers typically had better language skills, as well as fewer behavioral and emotional problems, and more stable relationships with their mothers all the way up until they reached the age of 15. The researchers think the difference is due in part to the fact that older mothers disciplined their children differently, going light on physical and verbal discipline.
Of course, not every 35-year old mother is more emotionally mature than a 26-year old mother. The bottom line is that there are bad older mothers and good young mothers and vice versa. However, there may be something all parents can learn from older mothers about being a bit calmer not only during pregnancy, but when it comes to reinforcing good behavior in kids. It’s probably worth it, if it means having a good, stable relationship with kids through those rough middle school years.