For generations, women have been told (mostly by nosy great-aunts) that if they want to have kids, they better not wait too long. Having kids at an “advanced” age — which, depending on who you ask, might be anytime after 30 (Janet Jackson just had her first child at the age of 50!) — was thought to be harder on parents, and perhaps even more risky for the children themselves.
As it turns out, that might be totally bunk. A new study from researchers in Denmark shows that older mothers often produce more well-adjusted offspring, thanks in part to their “psychological maturity.”
The Extensive Study Involved Thousands of Childhood Interviews
The researchers followed 5000 mothers in Denmark over a long period of time, interviewing their children at ages seven, 11, and 15. The seven and 11-year-old kids of older mothers were found to have fewer behavioral, social, or emotional issues than children of younger mothers. By age 15, there was no significant difference, probably because all teenagers are the worst. What’s the reasoning behind this pattern? It probably helps that the older mothers were far less likely to use physical punishments or yell at their children to impose discipline than younger mothers. That warmer environment may well produce happier, more socially confident kids.
Age is just a number and the real factor at play here is — ahem — “maturity.” According to Dion Summer, the study’s author, as “people become more mentally flexible with age, [they] 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.”
In other words, the women who have had more experience putting up with all of the utter garbage that life throws at them turn out to be better prepared to deal with the annoyances that their toddlers will inevitably lob their way, sometimes in an all-too-literal sense.
The Study Is Great News for Women
This study is great news for women who are increasingly looking to spend their formative early adulthood years building a career and life for themselves before settling down to have kids. Although there is some evidence that older parents — moms and dads alike — may have a higher chance of giving birth to a child with a chromosomal defect, there are a growing number of studies that show that “older” motherhood is perfectly safe and even beneficial.
“What’s important apart from age are other factors that come into play, like maturity and stability,” said Joanna Seidel, a child and family therapist in Toronto. “As a 30-year-old mother, you’ll have more experience, education, and maturity, versus a woman at 20. This could lead to a more tolerant and patient parenting technique,” she added. Previous studies have also shown that older women are often less anxious about their pregnancies and more optimistic about motherhood in general. So that biological clock you thought you heard ticking away? It might be perfectly fine to hit the snooze button for a while.