Childbearing Postponement and Child Well-Being: A Social vs. Health Trade-Off?

Alice Goisis, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)

Childbearing has been increasingly delayed in Western countries. As women who delay their first births tend to be advantaged, the demographic literature has conceptualized postponement as beneficial for child well-being. Conversely, less attention has been given to numerous medical studies showing that giving birth at older ages increases the risk of health complications. This paper uses data from the Millennium Cohort Study (U.K.), OLS and logistic regression models to compare cognitive, and behavioural outcomes and obesity at age 5 for first born children by maternal age at first birth. On one side, the findings reveal that delaying the first birth past age 30 until the late 30s is positively associated with children’s cognitive and behavioural scores and not significantly associated with obesity. On the other, the results reveal that postponing first births towards the late 30s-early 40s is not significantly associated with improved children’s cognitive and behavioural well-being and is associated with increased risk of obesity.

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Presented in Session 208: Consequences of Fertility Timing