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There are plenty examples of young mothers raising bright, well-adjusted children. You can count my own mother, who had her first child at 19, among the success stories. But according to a new study published in the European Journal of Developmental Psychology, most of the time, you’re better off waiting to have kids until you’re well into adulthood. After analyzing the survey responses of nearly 5,000 Danish mothers, researchers from Aarhus University in Denmark found children experience fewer behavioral and emotional problems when raised by relatively older mothers. These findings counter the traditional thinking that waiting to conceive is dangerous for both the child and mother’s health.
While it’s practically common knowledge that mothers have a higher risk for miscarriage and related complications the longer they wait to have children, little research has been disseminated on the psychological risks of having children too soon. According to the study, an older mother’s “psychological maturity” can have lasting effects on her children’s well-being, improving language and social development skills. Apparently, when compared to young new moms, older mothers are less likely to criticize and physically punish their children.
Regardless of other variables, including the mothers’ income and education level, the psychological differences between the two groups of children proved to be significant up until they turned 15. Professor Dion Sommer, who led the study, told The Independent of her findings,
“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. This style of parenting can thereby contribute to a positive psychosocial environment, which affects the children's upbringing.”
The average age American women have their first child has been steadily rising over the past four decades, while British women tend to wait the longest to start a family. This recent study might be reflecting what women already know to be true: The more capable you are of supporting yourself, the better you’ll be at supporting your child.