Traditionally, women are advised by everyone from their doctors, family members, and even sometimes their own biological clocks to have their children at a younger age, specifically in their 20s. But there’s another side to that pregnancy journey — how do the children themselves actually benefit? It turns out they may fare better when their moms wait to have them later in life. Children born to older mothers are actually happier, better behaved and more emotionally stable, according to a study.
“We know that people become more mentally flexible with age, are more tolerant of other people and thrive better emotionally themselves. That’s why psychological maturity may explain why older mothers do not scold and physically discipline their children as much,” says Professor Dion Sommer from Aarhus University, one of the researchers involved in the study. “This style of parenting can thereby contribute to a positive psychosocial environment which affects the children’s upbringing.”
Research found that women who have children at ages 35 and older have better and happier pregnancies. These women thrive during the first part of motherhood, are more elated overall about being parents and have positive attitudes towards their children.
To cull this data, nearly 4,500 children born to mothers who took part in the Danish Longitudinal Survey of Children were tracked. Researchers checked in with the children at ages 7, 11 and 15 and found that children born to older mothers had significant behavioral, social and emotional advantages over the children born to younger mother counterparts. However, the benefits seemed to wane or stall at around age 15, when the age of the mother didn’t provide any additional benefits or advantages.
Older mothers have a clear advantage over those who dive into the parenting pool at an earlier age. Women who start their families later in life usually have better education, which usually leads to more stability in their finances. The children can benefit greatly from these monetary resources which adds to a child’s overall well-being and stability. Also, older moms usually have personal lives that are more balanced — many of them are involved in more stable and secure relationships that give them access to the best resources as a mom. This results in more of their children’s emotional needs being met.
The study also found that older moms are more careful about their health during pregnancy and were less likely to smoke while pregnant in comparison to their younger counterparts.
A separate study also talked about the intellectual advantages that children born to older mothers enjoy. Overall, there has been a cultural shift in when a woman has her first child. Now, it tends to be between a woman’s mid to late 30s and sometimes 40s. In the past, women in their mid 30s to early 40s were already giving birth to their third or fourth child at that point. So this means that older women are able to give their first child, sometimes only or even their second child far much more attention than women their age with more children did in the past.
But researchers of this study warn that women should still exercise caution when deciding to start a family later in life. The reason it is recommended that women give birth during their younger years is because older mothers are at a higher risk for complications during pregnancy and while giving birth. Women who get pregnant at an older age also face a higher risk of miscarriage as well as having a child with learning disabilities or deformities.
“When estimating the consequences of the rising maternal age,” says Professor Sommer, “it’s important to consider both the physical and psychosocial pros and cons.”