It's a debate as age-old as parenting itself. Is it better to have your children when you're young or wait until you are older? According to a new study, children of older moms are more well-adjusted than kids of younger mothers. But previous studies have found that younger moms have more energy for raising children and also more years to enjoy their children.
In the latest study, which was published in the European Journal of Developmental Psychology, researchers from Denmark tracked 4,741 mothers of various ages and their children, evaluating a number of factors when their kids were 7, 11 and 15 years old. They found that older mothers were less likely than younger moms to verbally or physically punish their kids and thus their kids had fewer behavioral, social and emotional problems. Interestingly, the older mom effect seemed to level off by age 15.
Researchers also noted that the children of older moms had better language and social skills than their peers with younger moms. This held true regardless of other factors such as background, education and finances.
Similar studies have touted the benefits of older motherhood. This 2016 study found that women who had their first child after age 25 were 11 percent likelier to live to at least 90 years old than their younger mom peers, while this 2014 study found that women who have their last child after age 33 were 50 percent likelier to live to the ripe old age of 95. Neither of these studies looked at why older moms might live longer than younger moms, so it could just be that women who have children later in life are healthier to begin with, or it could be that their age at conception helped them ease into older age.
The benefits of youth
The biggest negative factors associated with delaying childbirth are health and energy. It is certainly true that pregnancy and childbirth can be harder for older moms than for younger moms. But in the developed world, advanced medical care mitigates most of these concerns. As for the argument about energy, that seems as individual as the moms themselves.
Of course, there are also some great perks to having children at a younger age. Younger women do tend to have an easier time with childbirth and bounce back from pregnancy more quickly than their older mom peers. Women who start trying to have children in their younger years also have fewer issues with fertility, and when those issues do arise, they have more time to weigh other options.
Younger moms also have more time to enjoy motherhood and possibly even grandmotherhood than older moms. And having kids when you are young increases the chances that your kids will have a longer and stronger relationship with their grandparents — and maybe even great-grandparents.
While studies show that older moms tend to be more patient with their children, they also show that younger moms are more likely to get down on the floor and play with their kids. They also may have an easier time adjusting to the major life changes associated with having a baby since they aren't already set in their routines at work and home. And having an empty nest in your 40s rather than in your 50s or 60s means you'll have more time later in life to enjoy your newfound freedom. Of course, you may become a grandparent much earlier in life than your older peers.
The point is, there are plenty of pros and cons to having a child at any age. It's up to you to decide what will work for you and your family. After all, the right age for you to have a baby — if you even choose to have a baby at all — is whatever age is best for you.