The average age of a first birth has risen from 24.5 years to 28.1 years since 1980 and the latest research shows that thirtysomething women have the cleverest kids.
That’s based on an analysis of 18,000 UK births recorded as part of the Millennium Cohort Study by researchers at the London School of Economics. The study measured intelligence and obesity at age 5 compared with the mothers’ ages.
The researchers wanted to know about the impact of the age of the mother on their children and wondered if there was an optimum age to have children.
They found that children born to women in their 30s had the best cognitive scores outperforming children whose mothers were in their 20s and also slightly outperforming children of mothers in their 40s.
This is not altogether surprising as women in this age group:
- are more likely to be better educated,
- have children by choice,
- have higher incomes,
- are more likely to be in a stable relationship,
- have healthier lifestyles,
- and seek prenatal care earlier
They are also less likely to smoke, more likely to breastfeed and more likely to read to their children.
All these factors are likely to help the children thrive. When the influence of social class is taken into account there is very little difference between the children of mothers in their 20s and 30s showing that it is the behaviours of the mums and not their age which is important. However the children of mums over 40 performed worse and were more likely to be obese.
Although not a big sample of mums over 40 the study found that these mums were less likely to play with their children, perhaps because they have less energy. Or something the researchers didn’t consider – the older mums might be career mums who have deliberately delayed having kids and are too busy with their careers to play with their children?
So although having kids at thirty seems ideal you can still have clever kids at any age if you put in the effort with them.
Published in Biodemography and Social Biology