A recent study out of Denmark has determined that due to their “psychological maturity,” older mothers raise more behaviourally, socially and emotionally well-adjusted children than their younger counterparts.
Published in the European Journal of Developmental Psychology, the study found that because older mothers are more stable and educated, and have greater access to materials, they are less likely to scold or physically discipline their children. Previous studies have also shown that older moms tend to fret less during their pregnancy, are more positive about motherhood and have a more favourable attitude towards their children.
As of 2015, the average age of mothers in Denmark was 30.9 years, which means most children are born to women over 30, and the proportion of children born to women over 40 has quadrupled since 1985.
“We know that people become more mentally flexible with age, are more tolerant of other people and thrive better emotionally themselves,” Dion Sommer, co-author of the study and psychology professor at Aarhus University in Denmark, said in a statement. “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.”
While it had been previously established that these factors contribute to a positive outcome for children in their early stages, this new study determined that the advantages extend to children aged 7 and 11. However, they taper off at age 15, where neither verbal nor physical sanctions change depending on the mother’s age.
“What’s important apart from age are other factors that come into play, like maturity and stability,” says Joanna Seidel, a Toronto-based child and family therapist. “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.”
The study acknowledges the increased physical risks associated with becoming a mother later in life — including higher rate of miscarriage and premature births — however it also found that children born to older mothers had a better grasp of language and social development, regardless of the mother’s background, education or financial standing.
“The more satisfaction and general well-being a parent has in their life, the more likely their kids are to have a better outcome socially, behaviourally and academically,” Seidel says.
She also points out that women who wait longer to have children have often tried harder to conceive, thus indicating a strong desire to have kids. This attitude extends to educating themselves on child rearing and working harder at parenting.
In Canada, the average age of mothers at childbirth (counting all births) was 30.2 years in 2011 (the oldest age on record), while the average age of first-time mothers was 28.5 (also the oldest on record).
“What it comes down to is the parent-child relationship,” Seidel says. “If you’re happy and stable, that will translate to your child.”