Unul din simptomele de asfintit ale capitalismului, scaderea natalitatii, atinge Romania cu violenta. Impreuna cu emigratia in masa, scaderea numarului romanilor traitori in Romania face ca viitorul sa fie incert. Asa la scara mare, peromaneste. La scara individuala, iata aici o discutie din NYTimes, dela centru:
Know What You’re Doing If You Decide to Wait
Miriam Zoll is the author of "Cracked Open: Liberty, Fertility and the Pursuit of High-Tech Babies." She is a member of the board of Our Bodies Ourselves.
Should women delay motherhood? The answer is, it all depends.
If you are intent on birthing offspring with your own genes, delaying is probably not the best idea. During the last 30 years, the number of childless women ages 40 to 44 doubled. In 2006, according to census data, 20 percent of women in that age group were childless compared to only 10 percent in 1986.
Delay -- but not for long -- if you intend to adopt or foster a child, or if you're comfortable gambling on expensive fertility treatments.
Delay -- but not for long -- if you intend to adopt or foster a child, or if you're comfortable gambling on expensive fertility treatments, like in-vitro fertilization or egg donation. The most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveal I.V.F. failure rates as high as 68 to 78 percent in women ages 35 to 40, and 88 to 95 percent among women 40 to 44.
The world is full of inaccurate information about women's and men’s fertility. Temper your optimism toward well-intentioned advice offered by friends, the Internet, your mother and the news media. Maintain a healthy skepticism when people tell you that getting pregnant is easy if you just sit back and relax, take your temperature, inject yourself with hormones, practice yoga or freeze your eggs.
Every woman is different. Before making any big decisions, learn if deferring childbirth is even an option for you. Test your hormone levels when you are young, and keep testing them. Seek the opinion of more than one independent reproductive endocrinologist who has no ties to pharmaceutical companies, fertility clinics or donor egg agencies.
You need to protect your fertility. You can do that by becoming a discerning and informed reproductive health consumer.
Robin San Francisco
I delayed motherhood before giving birth at 39 for my first child, and 43 for my second. Of course I shouldn't have waited! It's insane to wait. All this talk about maturity or being a better mom, all that can go right out the window. I would trade all that, anything in the world, to have more energy. It takes sharpness, youth, resilience and plain old basic energy to handle the workload of parenting. I'm nearing 50 now, and I am plum exhausted, every day, in a way that my younger mom friends simply are not.
If I don't eat perfectly, exercise perfectly, and sleep perfectly, I am toast. It's like being in constant training. And the worrying! Like now, I worry I'll never be a grandmom.
Life goes on, every day, forward. Thinking you can save up for something, or be a better person for something, or should delay anything is unwise. Your life goes on, with kids or without, and there is never any time when you have arrived and things are complete. You are always arriving. Like Edie Windsor said, Do not postpone joy.
I delayed for reasons beyond my control, but so too, it was drilled into me by my mother and her generation to have a career first, and travel first, and do this first and that first. When I started trying to conceive it was a hard process and ended up being expensive. And I was one of the lucky ones. (My biological kids, my uterus, my eggs, etc.)
So do it when you're younger, is what I tell my children.
AMM New York
It's all academic, isn't it? All these discussions. I had my children at age 43 and 44 respectively. The old fashioned way. There was no 'plan'. I did not 'decide' to wait. My life took a certain trajectory and it did not include a suitable mate for quite a while. It's not that I wasn't looking or willing to commit, it's just that it didn't happen. By the time I turned 40 I had pretty much decided that this wasn't in the cards and I wasn't willing to compromise and marry the next guy that came along and didn't object. I saw too many dreadful relationships among my friends and collegues and I wanted no part of that. And then I met and married my current husband (of 25 years) and we had 2 children - all within 3 years. Again, I can't say there was much of a plan then either. It's just how it happened. I know I was lucky, I'm lucky still. The kids are grown, the husband is still around and we still all get along. I don't have much of a plan what comes next either. We'll just see how it all works out.
Nita Philadelphia, PA (In reply to AMM)
Thank you for your comment - it made my day! I'm 37, oldest of five, the last "hold out" among my family and friends to get married, and everyone gives me that side-eye as if to say, "What's wrong with YOU?" Truth is, I'm the first in my family to graduate from college, attend an Ivy League school, travel the world, and spend years developing a career I've had a passion for since childhood (I'm an English teacher and a writer.) As an African American woman, I wanted a solid beginning for any child I brought into the world, and not the usual statistical junk that dogs our heels. I knew I had to develop self first.
I've lived, laughed, and loved, but I know the person/situation for marriage and starting a family simply hasn't come along yet. I'm not anti-commitment, anti-male, anti-family values. I just love myself enough to not deplete my lifelong stockpile of joy by surrendering my future to just any man in the name of ovarian desperation. Like you, I hope that I can someday say that I found a nice guy, married him, and started a family with little to no trouble. But if I don't, it would be nice if my personal accomplishments could be taken into consideration, instead of just being written off because my uterus is on sabbatical.
Chieftb Mill valley,ca
There is no recipe that works for everyone. I can speak from experience! I had my daughter at age 20. I had my son 26 years later at age 46, so I know about being a young mother and being an old(er) mother. Each child is different and each circumstance is different and one's perspective is certainly different...but not better or worse. I struggled financially when younger but was a more carefree mom. I'm a helicopter parent now and I'm not sure that is better. The joy of parenting is the same...maybe enhanced for the older mom because of greater life experience and awareness.
Fertility is another big issue. I'm a physician. Women are very shocked to find their fertility is diminished (or gone) when they feel young at 40. The pressure to find a life mate and reproduce during active career time is a real blow to women. As the article says, being informed and empowered with all options is the way to go.
LPG Boston, MA
Yet another "debate" about this topic that assumes women reproduce all by themselves. Where are the men in all of this?
So many commenters and some of these articles presume women have endless choices. As Peggy said on Mad Men recently, "Well aren't you lucky to have decisions." I am one of those unlucky women who didn't meet her husband until 33, married a little over a year later, but couldn't start trying for children due to unemployment and the recession. We are finally trying now (at the age of 38) and encountering trouble. I'm well aware of the fertility problems for women my age and always have been. It's not a matter of awareness. It's a matter of life itself getting in the way.
From the mother's point of view, childbearing in the twenties with the last one no later than the early thirties is ideal. You have energy, physical outcomes tend to be good, you have an entire life left to live after 50 when they are grown. You have an outside chance of getting grandchildren while you are still young enough to enjoy them and be a help to their parents, in turn. There is nothing appealing, at least to me, in the current upper middle class model of cramming career advancement, exotic travel, wild oats and everything else into the twenties and most of the thirties, and then retiring from independent adult life into some sort of child centered bubble, only to emerge at 65 or 70 after paying off the last bit of college tuition.
w84 mearmonk, ny
Every woman I know who decided to have children later rather than earlier is a better mother.
How about fathers? Why is there no discussion about them, their skills, and their sperm? And while I'm on the subject, why is there no Warning Label on alcoholic beverages discussion the damage that is done in spermatogenesis by alcohol?
Why is the onus always only on us?
No, no, that's not an option -- don't you know that a woman's only purpose is procreation? How can she possibly have value if she's not breeding? At least that's what the New York Times has been hammering into my head for the past few months. I am so fed up with these articles, one after another after another. ENOUGH, NYT!
Alierias Airville PA
As a study of one, myself, I conceived naturally at 41, right away, when my husband and I decided to have a child. She was and is very much a wanted child, and I know just how lucky we are to have her without IVF or clomid.
That being said, pregnancy was really rough, with fibroids the size of eggplants, and a ruptured lumbar disc after 18 months of picking her up, putting her down, picking her up...
Who knows if I would have had these outcomes had I had my child when I was younger, but I was NOT ready in any way to do so. I have accepted the responsibility of my choices, and live with them, and I do not regret any of them, because I love my daughter.
Everything in our lives have a cost. Know the price of your decisions, and pay it.
Katharine Northern CA
I think missing from the discussion are the social and economic factors for all women, not just African-American women, although those factors are important to discuss. I'm not deciding to wait to have children, I just don't have anyone that I can make that decision with yet! As a young woman who was encouraged to get an education and a good job, and moved around to do so, it's hard to find a good guy. Younger people's social lives have changed drastically in the past several decades and economic forces, especially recently, have forced us to pursue career options when they become available, not necessarily when it's the right time.
There is no one answer to this question, and what's right for a woman and a couple will vary greatly from situation to situation. I just want to interject that the decision when to have a child often is not a matter of plain "choice" but of circumstances: I did not marry until I was nearly 40 (because, up to then, I had not met anyone I wanted to and should have married); and, because of that timing, I had my child at 42 (in a stroke of good luck, not encountering fertility problems). I have realized many benefits to later motherhood; I also see the downsides (mostly, it was age that drove me to limit my attempts at motherhood to one child, although I wish I'd just kept going and tried to have a gaggle of kids). But, at 49, with a successful marriage and career (i.e., financial security) and the flexibility to dote on my one child, I am happy and philosophical about the fact that, in life, we are very lucky indeed if we get in the general vicinity of everything we want.
Pogo Was Right Melbourne Florida
As an old geezer who has been through fatherhood and the associated problems which never end, no matter how old the children are, I say women should delay having children for about 50 years.
Absolutely! After menses begin, just when do you reach the point when you are "delaying" motherhood? 20? a year after college? two years after a wedding? the arbitrary number of 30? You should have a child when you are ready to have a child, and anything else is either "rushing into it" or "delaying."
rmt Annapolis, MD
Why are all these discussions framed in terms of "delaying" parenting? Why aren't we asking if women should be "rushing into" having children?
Nancy New York
I guess this writer is offering the best advice I've seen recently, which is that every woman needs to find out with their doctor what's best for them, and to get tested.
Unfortunately, most women go through several OB/GYNs throughout their reproductive lives, with school, moving, various jobs, etc., and not all of them are going to have the same opinion (I know mine didn't). Also, a lot of insurance isn't going to pay for the tests she describes.
Throughout my 30s, my doctors repeatedly reassured me that I was fine in delaying pregnancy. But by the time I started wanting to get pregnant in my mid-thirties, I had a miscarriage (more common as you get older and not exactly a great thing to happen when you have a ticking clock for a uterus) and then fertility issues. At 37 I gave birth to a healthy baby girl but by the time I was ready for number two, I was in my 40s and even with IVF was unable to conceive.
I had always thought that the whole declining fertility thing was an anti-feminist scam to get women to reproduce. In my case, at least, it turned out to be true.
Siobhan New York (In reply to Nancy )
"I had always thought that the whole declining fertility thing was an anti-feminist scam to get women to reproduce."
This is one of the most common false beliefs--incredibly, it is often believed to be the truth by well educated, successful women.
Women must do a much better job of educating other women about the realities of aging and fertility.
Elena M. Brussels, Belgium
The way I see it, it is better for people to have children later in life than sooner.
From an evolutionary point of view, to be the child of parents that were in their 40s when they had you means that (a) both your parents survived until their 40s and (b) they were fertile too in their 40s. So, genetically, the offspring's chances to atteign - at least - that age and be also able to reproduce at that age are increased. Give it a couple of centuries of that policy and it could rise humanity's (at least in the western world) life expectancy by raising, among others, our reproductive expectancy.
Karen R Dallas Tx
So much of the debate focuses on when to give birth. Very little discussion addresses what happens next. I had my two children in my mid-thirties; quite the norm for professional women. Now I am in my fifties, dealing with teenagers who need me almost as much as an infant does-late nights, multiple crises, job interruptions, feeding, talking to, sturm und drang; as well as aging parents who also delayed childbirth till later in life. My husband's and my parents are older than most, more fragile, grappling with health issues, dementia, financial, housing, and end-of-life difficulties. They need every bit as much attention as our teenagers do. As do our careers, at peak. So which of these competing interests gets short- changed? There isn't a day that goes by that I don't wish fervently I'd had my kids in my twenties. They'd be grown by now, and I could take at least one thing off my plate. I am tired. I'd love to be able to kick back and enjoy grand kids and nothing else.
What You Need to Know If You’re an Academic
Mary Ann Mason is a professor of the graduate school and faculty co-director of the Earl Warren Institute for Law and Social Policy at the University of California, Berkeley. She is a co-author of “Do Babies Matter? Gender and Family in the Ivory Tower,” and co-principal investigator at Tools For Change.
Should I wait until I get tenure to have a baby? That is the question I was most frequently asked by female graduate students when I was dean of graduate studies at U.C. Berkeley. These women, who comprised at least 50 percent of the division, knew about the research I was doing with Nicholas Wolginger and Marc Goulden on the effect of children on academic careers.
My answer: Family formation negatively affects women’s, but not men’s, academic careers. For men having children is a career advantage, and for women it is a career killer. And women who do advance through the faculty ranks do so at a high price. They are far less likely to be married with children. Among tenured faculty 70 percent of men are married with children compared with 44 percent of the women.
Academia is difficult for mothers because of the rigid lockstep career track that puts the greatest pressure on aspirants in their 30s and 40s.
What makes academia so difficult for mothers? In large part it's because academia is a rigid lockstep career track that does not allow for time out and puts the greatest pressure on its aspirants in the critical early years. Most Ph.D.'s are achieved, postdoctoral fellowships completed and tenure granted between the ages 30 and 40; the "make or break decade" as I call it. It is also the decade in which women have children, if they have them at all. Low fertility is not a coincidence among tenured women, who believe they must have tenure (usually around 40) before beginning a family. Achieving tenure used to be several years earlier. But most universities still do little to provide a more flexible career path or to put in place family responsive programs that would make it possible to balance work, particularly for graduate students and postdoctoral candidates.
Is academia more punishing for mothers than other professions? Well, yes. According to census data, among the professions charted — faculty members, physicians, lawyers and chief executives, between the ages of 35 and 50 — women in academia, no matter how many hours they worked, reported fewer children than women in all other professional fields. Among female faculty members who worked between 50 and 59 hours a week, 41 percent reported children in the household, compared with a robust 67 percent for female doctors.
We all know what structural changes -- like paid family leave for both mothers and fathers, a flexible workplace, a re-entry policy, pay equity reviews, childcare and dual-career assistance -- would help to level the playing field. Those universities who have these policies and have enforced them have found an advantage in recruitment and retention. After new family policies were put in place at Berkeley, we experienced a baby boom: twice as many babies were born to female assistant professors.
So, beware, if having children is important to you, investigate the family friendly policies of the universities you are considering for graduate school or faculty positions.
Thank you, Mary Ann Mason. I spoke to you seven years ago when I was up for tenure, the only woman at my school who had had two children while on the tenure-track. (I finished grad school at age 38, so I wasn't about to wait for tenure!) We had no provisions to stop the tenure clock then. Your research validated my experience of lower productivity compared to my male peers, making me realize I wasn't less talented, just a heck of a lot busier and more sleep-deprived. Just yesterday I told my nine-year old daughter that she should never mistake systemic problems like sexism for personal shortcomings. Research like yours offers data to back that up.
As a Professor Emeritus , with two grown children you have to avoid confusing cause and effect. It's not children, it's childcare. I was fortunate. I had tenure before our children came. but unlike other faculty with "stay at home" spouses, I was the primary caregiver. I took endless abuse from the university system and my childless female department chair for taking the time to be an attentive father. The issue is not male and female, it is whether you have a spouse who does all the child care.
CIndy Watter California
What tenure? According to Frank Donoghue ("The Last Professors") fewer than one out of four academics has tenure. I have several friends who are wonderful instructors with degrees from fine universities and they will be adjuncts until they drop. One might as well have the children one wants, rather than place any faith in the whims of the workplace.
nana2roaw albany, ny
It's ironic that corporations, often vilified as anti-progressive by academics, treat women employees much better than professors and university administrators do. Few jobs are worth giving up the joy of having children.
Essentially the only reason women's trajectories would be any different from men,s is if their husbands didn't support them. Yes we need better maternity leave and more flexible work structures- but change begins at home. Don't complain about not having enough time to the university if the root cause is your family dynamic. Of course men will be encouraged by social policies, but the sacrifices can still be made in this selfish society of ours. Women have been making them for years, get your husband to do the same.
PhD Candidate United States
Academia is the most hostile place for a pregnant woman and mother. One of my academic advisors, a named professor with multiple accolades and a top scholar at our university, casually joked at a department dinner party that someone needs to teach me how to use birth control (while department chairs and other professors sat idly by). Since then, I've been treated by this professor like I had a lobotomy rather than a couple of babies! I'm more productive on the publishing and teaching fronts than most of my peers but am still treated like a silly mommy...
Maxi MinUSA (In reply to PhD Candidate)
Yes. I completely believe that. People like you should be seen more and should speak out more. Good for you for entering the discussion.
Also...(advice from a woman many years your senior) *stay the course*. Don't let these comments deter you from your goals. If you are productive publishing, it means that in the "publish or perish" game you are way ahead. That's what really matters. The multiple accolades named professor feels threatened by you. You may need to consider changing advisors though. Blunt and hard advice, but worth taking.
Harriet Baber San Diego
Tenured, with 3 kids. Part of the issue for academics is that people don't believe we really work. Ob-gyn who delivered last kid asked how many hours a week I taught. 9. Anything else. 5 office hours. Oh, he said, you work 14 hours a week.
Where time is flexible, and you're not punching the clock, the assumption is that time out of the classroom is free time--when you're available to care for the kids. I, and others, have had a hard time getting it across to child care workers that we were NOT free to deal with the kids when we were at the computer in home offices writing papers and doing other work.
The only solution is to go into school every day, 9 to 5, as if it were a "real job." But that isn't the most efficient way to work.
Dave Albuquerque, NM
The academic career track is ridiculous and outmoded, not just for women with children but in general. You can enter almost any other field at any age, but good luck with academia. Besides an outright bias against people over 30 many fields especially science demand ridiculous post doc positions among other things that inhibit people over 30 from becoming professors, regardless of talent. These same factors work against women with children regardless of age. Another example of how academia feigns tolerance when in reality it's rigid and biased.
LDC Rochester, MN
Are there any data about how many women in academics actually want children? I am a female academic physician and never had a strong desire to have children-- which is perhaps why I gravitated to this career. I wanted to discover new things, advance medical care, travel the world to meet other physicians and scientists... with the excitement of my career, to be honest, rearing kids just seems so banal.
Banty Acid Jazz Upstate New York (In reply to LDC )
Would you feel having children is so 'banal' if you had a wife raising them while you travel and do all those exciting things?
ceili dth Boulder, CO
Another possibility not mentioned is having children while in graduate school. I realize some of the more traditional faculty will consider you somehow less serious, but in many areas outside the lab sciences it's a time when you do have considerable flexibility of how to allocate your time. I know several people who did this and for whom it worked very well. By the time they finished grad school, their kids were in school or at least preschool and they were ready for that tenure push.
HN Philadelphia, PA
One reason why academia makes it so difficult to have children is the lack of a University-wide fund to provide compensation to Departments whose faculty are out on maternity leave and therefore unable to teach their courses. This put subtle pressure on Departments to avoid even hiring too many women of the same age, as they could be in an untenable situation if too many were out on leave. And without a cohort of women who mobilize for changing attitudes about work-life balance, there will never be a real change in % of academic women with children.
My proposal is that Universities provide direct financial support to Departments to allow them to hire temporary faculty or administrators. While this may happen at some progressive colleges, it does not happen much at the bigger research universities.
PNW So Cal
This is an argument for changing an outdated patriarchal system of tenure and promotion in academics. It is NOT an argument that women should not have children if they pursue and academic career. For being so "liberal", academics continues to perpetuate one of the most unfair and patriarchal systems around.
I recently decided against pursuing a career in academic medicine simply because I felt that I couldn't compete. It is not that I personally can't compete, but I learned that even if I only worked 0.6 FTE, my publication, research and service to the school/department/larger community requirements would not be altered to reflect by part-time employment at my bi-annual review. I have an infant at home. I do not want to work full time until he is a little older, and I am not sure I ever want to work in a field that cannot even do simple math for evaluations of performance. Why would I want to compete with others who work full-time from an uneven playing field and have that be considered normal?
We need to change academia so that the lock-step system of tenure, research and publication allows for women to enter the field as well as men.
Dr. Dreykup Staten Island
Ironically, the women who are intelligent enough to be on tenure track are the ones who should be reproducing and passing on those intelligent genes. Otherwise, if academically inclined women feel it is in their best interest not to have children, female intelligence becomes a negative evolutionary pressure. It would then follow that it behooves males to seek out less intelligent mates. (And all they will be left to choose from would be the dumb, good-looking ones, which would require a radical change in male behavior.)
As a 24 year old, happy to just be employed architectural intern this baffles me. Then again, I am not in a career that offers the benefits of tenure. I understand the plight of added pressure, if tenure "makes or breaks" a career. Unfortunately, I just do not have a choice of job security vs. having a child early. I will always be susceptible to layoffs and may not be afforded the same benefits as women employed by institutions with greater than 50 employees. I am all for pushing for the benefits talked about, childcare and flexibility within the tenure system. I suppose it must be a hard choice, whether to seek tenure before kids. It is just not a choice provided to most women.
Adriana Southeast USA
This really is a pickle for both the woman and the employer. One of the post-doctoral fellows in my group just had a baby. Before the baby, she worked very hard, taught, did research, mentored and trained younger students and other post-docs. She was on her way to becoming a well rounded academic. SInce she has been back, she accomplishes much less at work and is actually rarely in the lab or office. There is always some problem with the baby that she has to take care of. She has pushed off a lot of her responsibilities to other people or just ignored them all together. Not sure how to handle that. There are so few faculty positions available these days. People working harder and accomplishing more will get these few positions.
I don't want to make it sound like all women change like this after they have babies. I have had other post-docs and graduate students in the lab that have had babies and I did not notice any differences at work after the baby. This happens less often than the first case but it does happen. Now those women, the ones who can handle both well, will go far.
Thank you for validating my experience. The model in accademica is basically that you should devote all your life to your work and there is no slack in the system. I was lucky enough to get tenure in my early 30's, as I was laser focused on work, but as soon as I had a baby I saw very clearly how deficient the system can be. While I was trying to juggle a new baby, a research group, several grants, and committee work on no sleep, I got essentially no support from my department, as they felt "special treatment" would be unfair. Not to mention the complaints that I got when I requested that the department seminar be moved from 4:30 to 4pm so that I could pick up my child from daycare at 5:30....
July 9, 2013 at 12:26 p.m.RECOMMENDED4
This is entirely correct, and it is a view too seldom heard.
Yes, we need better childcare policies in the university and in the workplace more generally. But change does begin with the individual family. Women routinely sacrificed everything to ensure their husbands' success in the past. Now that women are in the professional workplace in numbers, it's as if the only possible help they could receive is from an impersonal government agency!
It is the man's obligation to sacrificed - early and often - to ensure that his wife succeeds and their children are provided for. Too often men treat children like some kind of strange gift life bestows upon them requiring no great personal obligation on their behalf.
The single earner family is increasingly a relic of the past. The families which will succeed in the generations to come are the ones in which both parents are economically successful by supporting one another, and both supporting their children together. It takes sacrifice for everyone, but what goes around comes around.
Academic careers offer more flexibility to parents than most professions, including flexible hours that can accomodate children's activities. Many of my colleagues coach their children's teams in the late afternoon, and are able to attend children's performances and doctor's appointments.....while the work load is heavy, the rewards are great.
Many gravestones are inscribed "Beloved Mother." How many are inscribed "Tenured Professor?"
Men Shouldn’t Delay Fatherhood
Kári Stefánsson, a neurologist, is the chairman and co-founder of deCODE Genetics in Reykjavik, Iceland.
Women have been warned for several decades that the older they are at the time of their child’s conception, the greater the risk that the child will be born with a disability. Men, however, have been allowed to believe that their age at the conception of their children has little impact on their well being.
Let’s now examine these two assumptions.
First, the only strike against the children of older mothers is the risk of Down syndrome and other rare chromosomal disorders. However, on balance the children of older mothers do better in terms of health and well being than the ones of young mothers, who, in early observations of our data at deCODE Genetics, appear to have greater risk of A.D.H.D., autism and schizophrenia.
We have probably more compelling reasons to be concerned about advanced age of fathers than that of mothers.
Second, an older father passes more new mutations on to his children than does a young father. For example, a 40-year-old father passes two times the number of new mutations to his children that a 20-year-old father does. Furthermore, the probability that a child conceived by a 40-year-old man is going to develop schizophrenia is twice that of the one conceived by a 20-year-old.
Based again on our data analysis, it could be argued that the older man is a particularly undesirable contributor to the next generation when he is paired with a young woman because an old father and a young mother seem to generate the greatest risk of diseases such as schizophrenia and autism. It is of interest here that our scientists at deCODE Genetics have noted a rise in the prevalence of autism has coincided with the rise in the mean age of fathers at the conception of their children. My conclusion is that we have probably more compelling reasons to be concerned about advanced age of fathers than that of mothers.
Len Charlap Princeton, NJ
One of the most common ways to misuse data is to use comparative measures when absolute measures are required and vice versa. For example, "a 40-year-old father passes two times the number of new mutations to his children that a 20-year-old father does." If a 20 year old has an extremely small probability of having a mutated child, then even twice that very small number is still very small. We need to know how big that probability is before we can tell if anything useful lies in that statement.
Perhaps neurologists should do neurology and leave data analysis to the epidemiologists.
"Simply put, men do not face this issue, so stop trying to create a problem for men."
You know, as a woman past 50, and not wanting more children, I still have to think of myself differently as I move into menopause. When I passed 40 and didn't want more children, it was odd to think that this door (that I didn't want to pass through) was closing to me. I understand how you feel - it's the way middle-aged women have felt since the dawn of time - but denial doesn't really help. You can deal with this. We do.
John B Staten Island (In reply to tom )
I think it's pretty clear, for BOTH men and women, that if you want to raise a family that consists of your own children rather than someone else's, if you want them to be healthy, and if you think you might want more than just one, then you are better off starting early rather than late. I think those are all things worth wanting.
Donald Surr Pennsylvania
Well put, and there are financial considerations as well. Our children need our financial support most during their college years. Our peak earning years, as fathers, occur during our late 40s and early 50's. After that, like it or not, we become cast aside and unwanted in the well paying work force. That means that parenting should be timed so that those years of peak financial need coincide with our peak earning years. In short, have your kids in your late twenties and early thirties.
Been there and know about those things!
Longue Carabine Spokane
My wife and I had our first child at 19, three by 22, and all five by 28. We had graduated three kids from high school by the time we were 40, and by 52, we had our fifth and final graduate from college.
We've been married 46 years. We're baby-boomers (high school class of '66). I'm still working and loving it at 65. I could easily retire, don't want to yet.
I just got back from a backpack trip with a son-in-law and a couple of my teenage grandchildren. We have 12 grandchildren, two already in college.
I always encourage the young to marry and have children early; i.e., in their 20s. Our middle daughter and her husband had 5 children by 30 and have been married 23 years. It's fun to ski, hike, hunt, and travel with grandchildren.
Just a little antidote to the gloom and doom of the NYTimes, the endless agonizing over when to get married and have children, on and on and on! I say to the young-- don't listen to all that, and dive into life.
I think certain men just don't want to hear that similar to women's eggs, their sperm have 'expiration dates'. Certain men just want to be young forever, think they can have kids well into their 60s, and belileve they'd still make a perfectly capable mating partner to a woman almost half their age. All because they don't want to face the fact that indeed, they are now 'old'. When I see a man who looks like he's taking his grandson out for an ice cream, and then I realize it's his son, I just chuckle.
Why are people so afraid of aging and death that they constantly try to fool themselves?
tom san diego
This is ridiculous.
First, the increase in schizophrenia is indeed doubled, but still minuscule to the point of being a non issue.
Second, statistically, older fathers are often married to older mothers. When older fathers marry younger women, there is little increase is genetic abnormalities.
Simply put, men do not face this issue, so stop trying to create a problem for men.
Jessica California (In reply to tom )
Actually, you are wrong. The number of mutations in sperm increases with age. These mutations can be passed to the child regardless of the age of the mother. Advanced paternal age has clearly been linked with increased risk of certain outcomes including autism and schizophrenia in offspring, independent of the age of the mother.
Dick Springer Scarborough, Maine (In reply to tom )
I am dismayed at the scientific ignorance displayed here. The truth, as described correctly by the author, is that the age of the father is a major determinant of the likelihood of genetic abnormalities in offspring while the age of the mother is not. The reason is that the mother's eggs are formed early in her life and preserve there genetic makeup with minimal change throughout her life, while genetic changes in sperm increase to a much greater extent in fathers with age because sperm are constantly being produced and defects accumulate with time.
The effect is significant and the likelihood of offspring with schizophrenia, autism, and many other genetically based disorders increases dramatically with the father's age.
Gender politics should have no part in this discussion or any other discussion of scientific facts.
John Mink California
Interesting how the author seems to use 40 as the arbitrary age for which he disapproves of fathers having children, while almost all of the studies he cites actually show the potential for various problems increasing with the paternal age around 44-45 (at the low end for some problems such as Bipolar Disorder and Autism-spectrum disorders) and 55 and up (for Schizophrenia in particular). Not sure what his agenda is and why he so arbitrarily (and erroneously, if you take the data into account) cites 40 as the cutoff point, perhaps it is because that is the average age of fathers in the middle- and upper-classes in the developed world today?
Either way, the chances of some paternal age-influenced genetic mutation complicating the life of one's child still seems a bit blown out of proportion - we are talking about slim possibilities in general, here, and when you double a 0.5% chance you are still only talking about 1-100 odds.
More important is the fact that significantly older fathers (50+) have a tendency to decline in health much earlier in their children's lifespans than those who are younger - which means at least part of the task of caring for an elderly parent will become a reality when the children are much younger. As a healthy, well-adjusted son of a 52-year old father, that meant that I personally needed to become a caretaker slightly before the age of 30 - my father was great, but it certainly hindered geographic mobility in a crucial period of life.
A. M. GarrettLafayette, La.
Nonsense. This is why people are so obsessed with their kids nowadays. It is all about them having their "own" mini-me, not about the kid. It is worth wanting to nurture a human being.
If you are a primary caregiver of a child, they are your own children. And that's how adopted kids think of themselves too. They are not someone else's kids. I wouldn't mind raising a Steve Jobs or a Faith Hill. I am sure Jeffrey Dahmer and Adam Lanza's parents would have preferred raising "someone else's" kid too.
In reply to John B
This makes it sound as if there are only genetic advantages to being a younger father than an old one.
But in my experience and observation, there seem to be numerous other drawbacks to being an older father (40, 45+): less energy for the kids, huge generational gap, and the possibility of not being around for critical years.
Men who are 50+ and thinking of fathering should seriously consider this.
D STEIN nyc, ny
As a 43 year old father of a 2.5 year old, and a 1 yr old, allow me to say that this parenting thing is NOT an old man's sport.
With the economy today, most young people cannot afford to start a family in their early twenties. Many cannot even get steady jobs and move out of their parents' houses!
I Adopted a Child and Have No Regrets
Jill Totenberg owns her own public relations firm and is an adoptive parent.
I always loved children but did not think I could manage my career, household and a child all at once. When I was in my early 20s, I had a bird. I got the flu and the bird died -- I couldn’t drag myself out of bed to take care of him. I thought of the bird whenever the idea of having or adopting a child on my own came up.
I would have been a terrible parent when I was in my 20s and 30s.
At 45, I met Brian who seven years later became my husband -- a true partner who basically manages every aspect of the household. Unfortunately, he had been “fixed.” I decided then that we would just be together without a child. We had a fulfilling life and active careers.
Then one day, I realized that I no longer wanted my business life to be my life. The fulfillment of work could not replace the fulfillment of being a mother.
I went home and started adoption proceedings. I was lucky. I was among the last single older women (Brian and I were not yet married) who were allowed to adopt from China. Eleven months later, I was on my way to Beijing to pick up Melanie, aged 2 1/2, who today is 17 and a rising high school senior.
It is the best thing I have ever done. People often tell me how lucky Melanie is to have me and my husband as parents, but we're the lucky ones. She brings us such joy and keeps us young -- no easy feat given that we are the age of most grandparents. And she is as much ours as she would be if I had given birth.
I would have been a terrible parent when I was in my 20s and 30s. I feel so lucky the adoption miracle gave me the time to grow up and gain the patience and insight to be a better mother. And to all the women who are trying to decide whether to start a family, here's my advice: Just do it! Especially if you think you are too old, you are not -- you will never regret it.
Mary Poppins Cloud Cuckooland
I'm very happy that this worked for you, but adoption is growing harder and more expensive every year. For people who say "just adopt!", it's important to know the many difficulties that face prospective adoptive parents. Unless you're willing to take an older child or to have an open adoption, many avenues are now closed. Those adoptions may work for some people, but not everyone.
ceilidth Boulder, CO (In reply to Mary Poppins)
It's not always so quick in Colorado, even if you want to adopt a child who isn't "lily white." Families I know have waited years in that situation, especially when they didn't want a private adoption and preferred to go through social services.
jb midwife Colorado (In reply to Mary Poppins)
Or, you can be willing to adopt a baby who isn't lily white. The domestic adoptions that take forever are for people who insist upon a white baby from a birth mother who claims she has been living a cloistered life with just one mistaken outing during which she became pregnant. For families who are willing to adopt a baby of mixed race, in Denver, the wait is not long.
Ella Anywhere, USA (In reply to Mary Poppins)
jbmidwife, sorry, but you are wrong. My in-laws have gone through one completed adoption of an African-American child from Texas. It took them over a year to get a baby and that included one failed attempt (mother changed her mind halfway through the process). They are now attempting to adopt another child, again African-American and again from Texas. It has been 18 months and counting.
Oh, and that doesn't include the $20k for the adoption, plus legal fees, agency fees, flights to and from Dallas, etc.
When I hear people say "just adopt!" I just shake my head. They clearly have no idea....
I adopted at 40 and have no regrets. But I do wish sometimes that I had the strength I used to have a decade back.
A late child allowed me to enjoy my career, travel the world and see all kinds of late night movies/plays and do trekking and a lot of other stuff that a lot of my friends just could not do because they were stuck at home with their babies.
So, yes - delaying a baby definitely worked for me. My friends are now sending their kids off to college while I'm still teaching addition and subtraction - true. But I'm a happier person and a better mom because I'm not resenting my kid as the reason for not fulfilling my career ambitions or not having enjoyed my own space.
D Luke Milwaukee
I turned 45 today. I graduated college with a degree in social welfare 2 months ago. I would never consider being the parent of a newborn, but am considering adoption of a toddler or older child. My life taught me I'm not cut out for a newborn. My education taught me there are so many children stuck in bad situations because they lack a safer better place to go.
The planet is one of finite resources and I've never understood why we humans often consider our desire to procreate and have "children of our own" genetically more important than taking care of those children already here and in desperate need?
Thank you for being willing to adopt and parent. I wish more would consider the option, and be a little more flexible about the reality of life on earth and the children in need of real parents.
This is a great story. But there are many American children languishing in foster care. Because they are likely to be damaged goods, they are unlikely to be adopted. Why? 1. They are in foster care because their mom was on drugs or other damaging chemicals, like alcohol. Where is the research to show that addicted newborns grow up to be ok? 2. They have experienced chaos and abuse in their family of origin. Will they grow up to be mentally ill? Do we have the research?
New impetus for studies of brain function and mental illness might allow us to figure out these issues early. Then early intervention might help these kids grow up to be normal. And if they were ok then they could be adopted with confidence.
But a harder issue is the class difference. Our economic and social classes in the U.S. have hardened and the differences widened into chasms. For example, if children of poor mothers hear a smaller vocabulary than children of well-off mothers, they are going to have more difficulty in school, especially in reading.
Chinese girls are popular choices for adoption because they are only allowed to be adopted after they have proven to be absolutely normal and intelligent. I don't know what happens to female Chinese orphans if they don't make the grade.
Darwin is alive and well and living in the U.S.
Amy Chicago, IL (In reply to memosyne )
As an adoptive mom, I have several thoughts for you.
First, ALL children deserve loving homes, not just "American children languishing in foster care." American children are not any more or less deserving of a stable family than foreign-born children.
Second, the majority of American children that are available for adoption from foster care have tremendous special needs, ranging from severe brain damage and physical disabilities to reactive attachment disorder and fetal alcohol syndrome. The few who are both physically and psychologically healthy will face tremendous competition amongst families lining up to adopt them--and that assumes that they're legally free for adoption.
Third, there is plenty of research on the effects of abuse on children, as well as exposure to narcotics in utero. The general consensus is that these children will have long-term special needs that require a dedicated team of specialists to manage. Few parents would volunteer for such an assignment.
Lastly, adoptive parents alone should not be expected to care for America's neediest children. Is it selfish for us to want healthy children? Absolutely, but it's no different than the selfishness of biological parents who do everything they can to ensure that THEY have healthy children. I hope that the next time you meet a pregnant woman, you'll let her know how selfish she is for giving birth instead of adopting a special needs child from foster care, because it's the same thing.
balto reader maryland (In reply to memosyne )
Have you ever actually tried to adopt a child languishing in foster care here in the US? I did in the 1980s and it was impossible.
I was told by social services people that as a single woman that unless I adopted a troubled teenager (yes, that is the description they used), there was absolutely no way I could adopt a child. I was not fussy, didn't care about race or health, but decided to adopt overseas(not China) in order to get a younger, less troubled child within my life-time. Two flights, a lot of paperwork and anxiety later, I ended up adopting 2 kids who have grown up into amazing, successful adults. Absolutely no regrets on my part.
KR Beacon, NY
My husband and I adopted a 3-month-old boy from Guatemala. I was 50. Best thing (besides marrying my husband) that I ever did in my life. Yes, I am tired a lot. But he is 10 now and just a wonderful kid. I would much, much rather be raising him than sitting in Florida playing Bingo.
By the way, we looked into adopting in this country first. People who talk about adopting domestically should take a good look at the system. We were told that we were too old to hope for an infant. A private adoption was out of the question - too expensive, and too risky. And we know people who have adopted from the foster care system - children of all different races and ethnic backgrounds. Unless you are ready to take on kids who are severely damaged, both physically and emotionally - have the physical and psychological stamina, and the money, and the time - you should think twice. We are both special ed teachers who care for these kids all day. We wanted a shot at having a healthy kid at home.
JL Atlanta, GA
KR- I agree that parents should adequately prepare themselves for the special circumstances that foster children often bring to new homes and I thank you for your work in special education as I know that that can be an especially demanding job. As a former teacher myself, I have seen how hard many special education teachers work and I know that you can offer excellent perspective in this regard. I would, however, caution you about perpetuating the very negative stigma that foster children are “severely damaged”. I was in and out of the foster care system for seven years before I was adopted. I have gone on to be an All-American athlete, work with at-risk youth, and am now working on my PhD. Additionally, I am part of a happy marriage. My sister and uncle who were also adopted have maintained stable and healthy interpersonal relationships and have thrived in their careers as well as in athletics. I caution you to use your words carefully so as not to perpetuate this hurtful stigma. Growing up knowing that others saw me as “severely damaged” and may continue to see me as such not only hurts, but provides a label that is unhelpful-especially to a population that already faces challenges. I look forward to your response.
Ferrington Boonville, CA.
Well, I can only offer this: My daughter and my daughter-in-law both had their first child at the age of 42 and they are two of the most delightful children you could imagine. I helped a bit financially, but their careers are fine..
I did have to make a rule that my wife and I absolutely would not baby sit more than seven days a week. Good luck!
Adriana Southeast USA
Thank you! My sentiments exactly. I did not get married till I was over 40 and adopted a little girl from Viet Nam. I am the luckiest Mom in the world. I have no regrets that I waited. I wish I could have adopt a second child but options for older couples has become very limited.
A Delay Can Empower Women
Elizabeth Gregory teaches at the University of Houston, and is the author of "Ready: Why Women Are Embracing the New Later Motherhood." She blogs at Domestic Product about the economics and politics of fertility and women’s work.
My book on the biology, politics, economics and sociology of later motherhood begins with an Atlantic magazine article urging women who want a career to delay their families until they have completed their educations and established at work. The date? 1934.
Since 1960, hormonal birth control has allowed millions to do so. The average age at first birth for American women is 25.6, a new high (30 for college grads). Many wait longer.The birthrate’s at an all-time low, largely because of big declines among young women – many of them college bound. The only age group in which birth rates rose in 2011 was women 35-44.
Freed from early and frequent pregnancies, women have gained a voice in policy. Now, in today’s harsh fertility politics, we're seeing pushback.
There is no “should” in this story: women are delaying, globally. The “experts” are just catching up to explain why. Women figured out early that delay provides a shadow benefits system in our family-unfriendly world: higher salaries, more flexibility and higher marriage rates, as well as more interest in staying home at night.
Along with personal benefits, delay has been an engine of feminist social change because it allows women – who for millennia were kept busy, uneducated and out of decision-making circles by early and unending fertility – to begin to have a voice in policy. Change creates pushback, as today’s harsh fertility politics demonstrate.
Delaying is not without risk; eventually fertility wanes. But as Jean Twenge and I have documented, the odds of becoming pregnant in your late 30s are much better than the media reports. Conversely, the odds after 42 are worse than stories about celebrity late-40s births suggest. We’re told simultaneously that nobody’s fertile after 35 and that everybody can be at 45. Egg donation and egg freezing can extend fertility sometimes, but they are costly and not guaranteed.
Part of the blame lies with (some) fertility doctors, who benefit from tick-tock anxiety among younger women and inflated hopes among older ones. News media are also culprits in fertility scaremongering.
Women should have clear fertility data to make informed decisions. Without that, it’s no use knowing that later moms are happier, better off and longer lived, and that their kids do better. On the other hand, treatments do work for some, and many women adopt, foster or enjoy volunteering with kids. Others find they’re fine without children. (Full disclosure: I’m a mother of two, one biologically at 39 and one adopted when I was 48. No in vitro fertilization experience.)
The bottom line is that late fertility works for many now, but isn’t itself the goal. Many of our infertility issues would be best addressed through pay equity, a good, affordable national child care system and shared parental leaves, so people wouldn’t have to wait to afford kids. Federally mandated fertility coverage would help too. To date, birth control has allowed some women to trickle up into policy roles. But because the support infrastructure hasn't changed, women haven’t been able to move up in sufficient numbers to change it much. Lately though, the discussion has intensified. It’s up to us to decide when we’ve waited long enough.
George C Central NJ
Maternal maturity is just as important as fertility when deciding when to have children. Very few women younger than age 25 have the maturity and necessary life experiences to become a mother at such a young age. At least in my opinion, the best time to become a Mom is somewhere between 25 and 35. The maturity is there, fertility is generally decent and chronic health problems have not yet set in.
Maureen Wallace Charlotte, NC
I'm 40 with two toddlers and baby no. 3 on the way. Am I exhausted? Of course. Would I change a thing? Absolutely not. The years before I met and married my soul mate were spent discovering and honing talents that now allow me to work from home, nurture my creativity and care for my children.
What I may lack in energy levels I believe I make up for with patience, greater wisdom about the important things in life and a better sense of humor about some (OK, *many*) poop-filled days.
Each woman must decide for herself the best path. "Best" is relative, and "experts" on this topic are overpaid.
You said it yourself: "delay provides a shadow benefits system in our family-unfriendly world." To borrow the 1960s lingo, women with careers are delaying family to accomodate their family-unfriendly employers, letting "the patriarchy" govern their fertility decisions. How is that empowering? How is that the solution?
This is a huge social problem, and women and their spouses are paying the price in infertility. Both men and women, en mass, should have children when they want to, and lobby their employers (and government?) for change (paid leave, flexible scheuldes). If enough professional women do it, and then stick around to climb the ladder, the workplace will have to change, and hopefully that change will trickle down to non-professional employees who have less bargaining power. Men who want to be involved fathers should get on board too.
At least, that's what I'm trying. I'm a female litigator at a big, national law firm. I had my kids at 26, 29, and 30. I did not wait to make partner to start a family. I've asked for and, thankfully, received some accommodations for my family life. I still hope to make partner one day, though I know it will take me longer because of my choices. I have friends who waited until they made partner to start a family - something that necessarily cannot happen until you're well into your 30s or later. Many of them have struggled with fertility problems. This is a problem with American work culture, and it can be changed.
Donald Surr Pennsylvania
Fine if you are independently wealthy. Most parents, however, Dads and Moms, find themselves pressured to pay their children's college tuition from their own earnings -- which head in a downward spiral after the early 50s. That may not be true in academia, where you work, but it is true elsewhere. That suggests that it is prudent to time parenting so that those expensive college years arrive during your years of peak earning -- meaning no later than the mid-50s.
Alierias Airville PA (In reply to Donald Surr)
Or, you could start saving at birth, like we did...
Todd Fox Earth
The chance of conceiving a child with a chromosomal abnormality (usually Down's Syndrome) is about 1 out of 900 at age 30. By age 40 this increases to 1 in 60. By age 45 the odds are about 1 in 30.
The odds for having a miscarriage in early pregnancy are surprisingly high in our 20s. 15% of all detected pregnancies end in miscarriage in those years. By our forties, this figure goes up to about 50%. I don't think "we're told that nobody's fertile at thirty-five". I think we're told that our fertility starts to go down in our late twenties, which is accurate.
The incidence of autism appears to go up with both maternal and paternal age as well.
Having seen a friend go through the pain of learning that the very-much-wanted child she conceived at 40 would have Down's Syndrome if she carried it to term, I would suggest that these statistics should be considered very seriously if you are thinking of putting pregnancy off until mid-life. You must also consider what you will do if you decide to test for birth defects. If you decide that you will terminate the pregnancy if abnormalities are found, you must consider how it might feel to abort a child that was very much wanted and was carried for twenty weeks.
None of this is a plot to keep women back or distract them from their careers. It's just biology.
t bee Indiana (In reply to Donald Surr )
Delaying childbirth allowed me to devote a significant amount of my income to my retirement accounts; this nestegg will now grow in interest as I divert some of my would-be future retirement contributions to my child. A lot of my age-mates who had children in their 20s or even early 30s don't have that nestegg and their never-ending child-related bills make catching up impossible.
Funny, totally different perspective. I am in my late 40's, have a grade schooler, and I have no desire to be free of parenting. I attribute that to having worked hard, played hard until I was in my late 30's and having gotten the me, me, me out of my system.
I argue that women haven't "learned" but that society has artificially extended the onset of adulthood from the teens to the late twenties, at a frightful expense. Downs syndrome is only the most talked about genetic disorder.
I had my first son straight out of university. Now in my mid-40's, with just one son, who's 17, at home, I can focus on my career at a time when it's most critical. By having my first son at such a young age, I grew up quickly and invested heavily in my career---of course I lost out on the partying and traveling that I see my younger colleagues do today. I unwittingly positioned my career to take off alongside my male colleagues with maybe a two-year drag effect. When I see my peers with young children trying to juggle long office hours and business trips, I don't know how they do it. In my twenties I could get 4 hours sleep and still produce.
There's definitely something to said for having children when you're young. I wouldn't be where I am totally professionally if I hadn't.
ROK Minneapolis (In reply to Jessica)
Totally opposite experience. I spent my younger years getting credentialed and paying my dues. By the time I had my kid, I had a position where I had substantial autonomy, a solid reputation and thus the ability to make my work jive with parenting. I wouldn't be where I am professionally or have the ability to parent the way I do if I had a child in my 20's. Point is - there is more than one road and to each her own.
Irene PDX Portland, OR
So many of the "negatives" in this comment section for delaying childbirth focus on birth defects. My question then is, "so what?" I conceived my first at age 35, and he was born with Down syndrome. I conceived my second at age 36, and he wasn't.
We don't have children anymore to care for us in our retirement (it's a nice thought, though). We don't have children anymore to help on the family farm. We don't have children (for the most part) to have them take over the family business.
So why have children? Each person has their own answer, but for us it was to experience life more intensely: the highs are amazing, the lows are really awful. Whether a child has an extra chromosome doesn't change the experience: all children are difficult in their own ways, but it's the process of parenting that is transformational.
Looking back, my wife and I would have been much happier if we had our kids at 25 and 27 than at 37 and 39. Having children at a younger age would not have hurt her career. And instead of having a 6-year-old and an 8-year-old, we would have two kids in college, soon to have lives of their own. And being free of parenting in your late 40's would have been a beautiful thing, as is being young grandparents (we shall see).
What would we have missed? Lots of wild parties and late nights out with friends. Big deal.
MaxiMin USA (In reply to Joseph)
Your wife is fortunate that her career would not have been hurt, had she had her children while in her 20's. In that case these articles and discussions are not about her. They are about the majority of women in academia who are forced to choose between having an intense academic career and having a family life. This discussion is not about women having to choose between lots of wild parties and late nights out with friends vs. having children, but between lots of publications and late nights in the office or lab vs. having children.
Erik Gulfport, Fl
Much emphasis on career building but less so on the more important and difficult task of bringing a baby from the crib to self-sufficiency. There are those who have financial buffers to deal with many basic duties and responsibilities of motherhood or fatherhood. However, there is the reality that there is no substitute for loving and caring parents. There is a series of personal sacrifices that go hand in hand with bringing a baby into your life. For most, not making managing director is worth building a life and loving relationship.
Consider Social and Economic Factors
Kristi Williams is an associate professor in the department of sociology and the Institute for Population Research at Ohio State University.
What is the optimal age at which to become a mother? The truth is there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question because it depends on much more than biology. Women’s social and economic backgrounds shape their life trajectories in profound ways. It is against this backdrop that the consequences of early or late childbearing for women’s health and well-being play out.
Data suggests that for African-American women, childbearing in the young adult years appears to be more harmful to later health than having children as a teenager.
Consider teenage motherhood, which has been linked to a range of negative outcomes for women. Yet the emerging social science consensus is that teen childbearing is more often a consequence of disadvantage rather than its cause. Indeed, the eventual economic prospects of women who become teen mothers, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, are similar to their counterparts who delay fertility.
In fact, based on 29 years of data on a nationally representative sample of more that 2,900 women, my colleagues and I find that for African-American women, childbearing in the young adult years (ages 20 to 23) appears to be more harmful to later health than having children as a teenager. These findings are worrisome because, although rates of teen childbearing have declined substantially in recent years, more than 35 percent of all first births to African-American women now occur between the ages of 20 and 24.
Becoming a mother in young adulthood may take an especially large toll on African-American women because their families often lack the resources to help them overcome the challenges of continuing their education and establishing a career with children in tow. Access to health care is also more difficult for this group. A new report from the Centers for Disease Control shows that one-third of young women between the ages of 19 and 25 lacked health insurance coverage during 2012 — a substantially higher proportion than in any other age group.
For the African-American women we studied, delaying childbearing to age 24 or older appears to reduce the later health risks. But in the real world, telling women some ideal age at which they should have a child is unlikely to work. Instead, we should focus on identifying the policies that give all women, whatever their social, economic and biological constraints, the best chance to navigate motherhood. And for women to be able to follow through on intentions to delay childbirth, we must end the current attacks on women’s reproductive rights and the efforts to defund Planned Parenthood.
We also need to remove the penalties that women suffer when they do have children during this window of vulnerability. The Affordable Care Act has already increased health care coverage among this most vulnerable group, but minorities remain most likely to lack coverage. Fixing this hole in the social safety net would do more to protect the health of these women and their children than trying to pressure women into decisions about fertility timing that may not fit with their individual circumstances.
Millicent Lagrange, IL
If I could change one thing about all the endless, useless, childbearing debates, it would be to ban the word "selfish." Having only one child? Selfish, some say, because you deprive them of having a sibling. Having no children? Selfish, because you'd rather sleep in than change diapers. Having eight children? Selfish - think of the environment! Waiting until you're 40, regardless of your actual reason? Selfish, because you were interested in your career. Having a child at 20? Selfish, because you aren't establishing yourself first and making it less likely you'll ever be a burden to someone else. And it goes on, and on, and ON.
To quote the Princess Bride: You keep using that word. I don't think it means what you think it means.
In a country where people have good access to birth control (still largely true, despite the best efforts of some right wing politicians), EVERYONE'S DECISIONS ABOUT CHILD-BEARING ARE SELFISH. Every single person decides to have a child, or children, or not, and when, based on their own resources and desires. Not everyone is going to come up with the same answer in seemingly similar situations, because every individual/couple/career/home/family is different. Throwing the word "selfish" around is a way people try to judge others for making different choices, assuming that is because of bad character. That word is cheap, it's meaningless and it's useless.
Kathleen Hiraga moving to Spain
This idea of "selfishness" in choosing not have a child is one of the biggest social perception scams women face today, and needs to be stood down. What is more selfish than toting around a "mini-me" that may or may not impact the world in potentially negative ways? It is another way of making sure women keep recycling to the back of the line when in positions of power, and for women who toss out the 'selfish" claim, grow up. Make your choice and live with it, but know that women who chose to not reproduce have a much better chance of creating a life that is financially stable and rewarding in terms of choices in career and education, and contributing in profound and relevant ways to society when not saddled with child rearing.
Here in TX Dallas, Texas
What, a sociologist's view and no mention of the role of fathers? This topic should be as much about delaying marriage as delaying motherhood. It's a simple fact that married, stable families do better economically and have an easier time of it than single parents. This is true for both genders, regardless of the age of the parents. You can have a baby at 14 or 40, but you are going to have an easier time of it if you have a partner to share the work, finances and responsibilities. Acting like motherhood is a decision left solely to the female--"should, I shouldn't I..." is ridiculous. I'm all for empowering women, but having a baby isn't like getting a puppy.
Our society has chosen to celebrate selfishness and delayed the onset of "adulthood" by a decade, yet biology hasn't changed. How would our crisis of young adult employment look if we reversed these "gains" in women's "empowerment" that saddle us with expectations of jobs and careers and denigrate parenting. Is it truly worth outsourcing raising our children?
Imagine instead a world where men and women are celebrated for raising their children. Imagine stay at home fathers being respected for strength rather than isolated at the park. Imagine mothers instead of nannies in Park Slope. Imagine comments that say "what about your children" instead of "what about your career". Imagine what would happen to the lower middle class if we didn't "need" to make payments on two luxury SUVs and instead let 2 families have 2 good jobs, instead of hoarding them at the top. Maybe an Accord on this subject is better for the environment than an Armada of two income families.
NC MA (In reply to John)
Imagine what would happen if some people could accept the fact that socialization for both parent and child is a good thing, and that child care quality need not depend on whether the caregiver is genetically related. Not everyone works for the money and not everyone sells their soul as a working parent. However the aforementioned lifestyle is becoming increasingly untenable, not due to need of SUVs but rather affordable healthy food.
LPC CT (In reply to John)
So what you're saying is that due to the fact that my husband is employed, getting my master's degree and a career I love was selfish and that I should've left that job open for someone else, and stayed home with my toddler (even in the absence of two luxury SUVs)?
What about how isolated I, as a mother, am at the park with my child--I definitely bring something to read--it isn't just a father thing.
Are you implying that being home all day with a parent is always better than being with several other children in my babysitter's home, playing and napping and having snacks? She and her family were only strangers until we met them!
And whom do you hang out with, that they don't ask about one another's children, as well as career and any other aspects of life that friends share?
Elizabeth Washington, DC
Not one of your commentators talks about how hard it is to find the right partner to have a child with, the pressures of modern dating, and the fact that most men don't want to have kids until they are in their late 30s. There is a gigantic power imbalance in dating that surrounds the fact that as women we have an expiration date. I was told by a friend recently that he won't date women in their 30s because "all they want to do is have children". What if you are 31, want a kid, would have had one at 27 or 28 but know that raising a child alone has dramatic implications for you and a child and the kind of life you will have. These commentators treat the issue as if it's something women have complete control over. Not to mention, student loans and the extraordinarily high price of giving birth to and raising a child.