Older moms and dads are having a “baby boom” all their own. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the number of first time moms, aged 35 and older, is nine times higher than in the 1070s. Men over the age of 40 now account for about 9 percent of all U.S. births and those over the age of 50, nearly 1 percent.
Research on the health risks for pregnancies associated with women of “advanced maternal age” are well documented. Recent studies have also looked at “advanced paternal age” and related mutations in sperm that may present health risks to offspring.
However, all these studies and known facts haven’t deterred mature men and women from having children. When the child is healthy, new research suggests that older parents may have quite a bit to offer their little one.
If you’re an older dad, odds are that your kid will be “geekier,“ or smarter than the average child his or her age. A study published in Translational Psychiatry, found that kids born to older dads are more likely to have a high IQ, and a stronger ability to focus on their interests. Also, they aren’t as distracted by a desire to fit in socially, and are thus more likely to achieve what they called “educational success,” which leads to a stronger socioeconomic status.
Another study points out that being a more mature parent may also mean that mom and dad are more emotionally prepared to take on the responsibilities of parenthood. Parents of both genders tended to have more career success, better financial security and stronger relationships with their partners than their younger counterparts.
Patience also seems to be an advantage offered by older parents. A 2016 Danish study found that older mothers were more adept at setting boundaries with their kids, and were less likely to yell at and harshly punish them, leading to fewer behavioral, social and emotional difficulties down the road.
Financial stability shows up in several studies as a contributor to a more stable childhood for kids of more mature parents. Younger parents are often still struggling with attaining economic and educational growth, while older parents may have more time to spend with their child because many of those challenges have been met.
Another interesting benefit for older moms came out in a 2016 University of Southern California study; being an older mom can work in your favor when it comes to your mental state later in life. After examining a group of over 800 women between the ages of 41 and 92, researchers discovered the women who had their last baby after 35 had better cognition and verbal memory later in life than those who first became parents young. They also found that women who used contraceptives for more than 10 years, or got their first periods before the age of 13, fared better when it came to problem-solving and executive functioning when they aged.
While there may be benefits for kids of older parents, there can also be unique challenges. Some children feel their parents are “different” from other kids’ parents. They may look different, act different and have different priorities. As children get older, they may become more aware of their parents age and worry about losing a parent earlier than their friends might. Children of older parents may also be faced with caring for their aging parents, if health problems arise, sooner their younger parent counterparts.
Parenting takes a lot of energy. It also requires adaptation. Younger parents may have an advantage in the energy category, but older parents may be able to go-with-the-flow a little easier.
All in all, more people are waiting longer to have children for all kinds of reasons. Noticing the amount of studies looking into this trend, older parenting may give scientists a whole new field to discover.
Story sources: Vivian Manning-Schaffel, https://www.nbcnews.com/better/health/5-advantages-being-older-parent-ncna775581