At last: some good news for us older mothers

We’ve long been told that we need to be having babies earlier in life as the risk of birth defects increases as we get older. Not to mention the very real drop in fertility as you head into your late thirties and early forties. Yet the trend is most definitely towards waiting until you are older to start a family – research shows that the average age of an Irish woman having her first baby is now 30.3. And, according to Eurostat, Ireland also has one of the highest proportions of first-baby births to women in their 40s, with nearly 3.5 per cent of first-time mothers here aged 40 and over in 2014.

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Those of us who waited until we are older to have children argue that there are advantages – we are more financially secure, in better relationships and – most importantly – emotionally ready to become a mother. Now it seems there may be tangible advantages for the children born to older parents.

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A new study coming out of Denmark, which followed nearly 5,000 mothers, tested the assumption that “older maternal age is associated with improved psychosocial health in families beyond the preschool years.” Researchers interviewed the children at ages 7, 11 and 15 and found that children of older mothers have fewer social, emotional and behavioural issues at ages seven and 11. Interestingly, this finding didn’t apply at age 15, but we’re guessing that’s due to teenage angst/hormones rather than the age of the mother!

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The research, which was published in a recent European Journal of Developmental Psychology, found that older mothers are less likely to yell at their children or impose physical punishment. As a result, the environment at home tends to be calmer, and this produces happier, more well-adjusted children. Another positive to ass to your list the next time someone refers to “geriatric first-time mothers”.

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