Are Older Mothers Better Mothers?
The average maternal age has increased steadily for the past many years and if one is to go by the latest study on the correlation between a mother’s age and how good she is with the baby, new research from Aarhus University, Denmark, now shows that older mothers are less likely to punish and scold their children while raising them, and that the children have fewer behavioural, social and emotional difficulties. Previous research has indicated that a higher maternal age is associated with increased psychosocial well-being during the pregnancy and the early days after the child is born. The new results indicate that the advantages for the older mothers and their children extend all the way into the children’s school age, but decline before age 15. The results have been published in the scientific journal ‘European Journal of Developmental Psychology’.
Today’s mothers have children later in life than before due to several reasons: Women live longer, they have more educational and career opportunities, and contraception has improved. The result should be seen in conjunction with the widespread recommendation not to have children too late. This recommendation is based on knowledge about declining fertility and the health risks during pregnancy and while giving birth, which are associated with advanced maternal age. Older mothers are at greater risk of experiencing complications during pregnancy and while giving birth than younger mothers. They are at greater risk of having a miscarriage, giving birth prematurely and having children with deformities.
“However, when estimating the consequences of the rising maternal age it’s important to consider both the physical and psychosocial pros and cons,” says Professor Dion Sommer from Aarhus BSS, who is one of the researchers behind the result. Studies show that older women thrive better during the first part of motherhood. They worry less during the pregnancy, are more positive about becoming parents and generally have a more positive attitude towards their children. Older mothers have more stable relationships, are more educated and have obtained better access to material resources. But it is also interesting to look at the significance of age when these factors are removed from the equation. In such analyses, age can be interpreted as an indicator of psychological maturity. “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 Sommer. “This style of parenting can thereby contribute to a positive psychosocial environment which affects the children’s upbringing,” he concludes. The new research is important because, so far, many studies have examined the correlation between education, job or marital status and older mothers, while very few have looked at the significance of age in and of itself.