Children of older mothers experience fewer behavioral, social and emotional problems, according to a new study.
The findings suggest that the benefits of being born to an older mother can be seen all the way up to starting school and even into the early teens.
In developed countries such as the UK, the average age at which people have children has been rising since the 1970s. In 2015, more than half of births in the UK were to mothers aged 30 and over and the average age of women having children was 30.3 years.
Women are often warned about advanced maternal age being associated with an increased risk of complications during pregnancy and during birth. The risk of miscarriage, premature birth and birth defects is increased.
However, studies have also shown that older mothers worry less during pregnancy and are more positive about becoming parents and towards their children in general. They have also shown that, irrespective of parents’ finances, education and background, children born to older mothers have better language ability and fewer behavioural, social and emotional difficulties.
The current study, which tracked Danish children of school age, showed that those born to older mothers did indeed have less behavioural, social and emotional problems at age 7 and 11, although the effect appeared to level off at age 15.
Older mothers tend to have more stable relationships, a better education and greater access to material resources. However, this study looked at the effect of age alone, after accounting for these factors, and it seems that older age can be interpreted as an indicator of “psychological maturity.”
As reported in the European Journal of Developmental Psychology, older mothers were less likely to scold or physically discipline their children, compared with younger mothers. This can have a beneficial effect on children well into their teens, say the authors from Aarhus University in Denmark.
"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 lead author Dion Sommer.
"This style of parenting can thereby contribute to a positive psychosocial environment which affects the children's upbringing," he concludes.