Try as science might to discern the ‘right’ age to have children, the window remains a shifting target. For example, the ideal timeframe from a biological standpoint may not prove ideal from a social-emotional standpoint. There’s also the gap in biological clocks between men and women to consider in examining the health benefits and detriments of parenting at various ages.
As any pregnant woman "of advanced maternal age" will tell you, the risks of carrying a child over the age of 35 are well-documented. The March of Dimes states pregnant women over the age of 35 could face potentially dangerous complications, such as gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and high blood pressure. There are also many risks of complications that can affect the offspring of an older mom, such as premature birth and an increased risk of Down Syndrome. A recent Danish study followed children over an 18-year period and found children born to older moms had an increased risk of developing mental disorders, heart diseases, circulatory diseases, and congenital malformations.
Though, unlike women, male reproductive organs don’t come with as boldly written an expiration date requiring medical (or divine) intervention, numerous recent studies have revealed that sperm does, indeed, get old, and advanced paternal age can also contribute to certain health issues of their children. One study attributes age-related mutations in sperm to an increased risk of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), while another study attributes older sperm to a 10-20 percent increased risk of psychiatric illness.
All this said, emerging science also reveals a bevy of benefits to be experienced by both parents and their offspring during what experts almost offensively refer to as advanced maternal or paternal age, and they’re mighty compelling, to boot.
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You May Have Yourself a Smarty Pants
Turns out, if you’re an older dad, odds are your kid will be a brain. A study just published in Translational Psychiatry provided evidence that older fathers tend to sire “geekier” progeny. Researchers from both the U.K and U.S. examined data of 15,000 sets of twins collected from tests to measure their “geek” traits (including I.Q., Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) grades, interests and social skills) at the age of 12. Researchers compiled that information, as well as input from their parents, to craft a “geek index score” to run up against their parent’s ages. They learned 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.
Your Kids Might Live Longer
Though, for both genders of parents, advanced age carries an increased risk of the development of chromosomal abnormalities in utero, one 2012 Harvard University study shows a link between advanced paternal age and chromosomes that lead to longer life spans. As it turns out, aging sperm might produce children with longer telomeres, or tips of chromosomes, that protect DNA while being copied, which is linked to longevity for not one, but two generations of offspring.
You're More Emotionally Prepared
According to Live Science, University of California, San Francisco researches conducted a small study that set out to establish an “optimal” age for parenting. Most respondents believed being an “older” parent was more advantageous than being a younger parent, mostly because they were more “emotionally prepared.” Parents of both genders in the study overwhelmingly said their 30s would’ve been the ideal parenting era. Other advantages of being an older parent? More career success, financial security and stronger relationships with their partners.
You're More Likely to Get Your Kids Off to a Healthy Start
A large 2012 study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) found that little kids with older moms were healthier than kids with younger moms. Researchers took an overall snapshot of the health and wellbeing of a select group of children up to the age of 5. They learned the children with older moms had fewer accidental injuries, fewer social and emotional difficulties and were further along in language development.
You're Less Likely to Lose It
Being an older mom also has its benefits when it comes to patience. 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. They also had less anxiety during pregnancy, had more stable relationships, and were in better shape financially — all factors that can contribute to a more chill parenting experience.
You'll Be More Financially Stable
It seems like common sense that older parents are more likely to have established financially stability — but there’s actual proof. A Danish study published by PLOS One established a link between a woman’s age with when she first became a parent and her lifetime earning ability. Apparently, for moms both with and without college degrees, those who first gave birth when they were younger than 25 suffered the most lifetime labor income loss, whereas women who started having kids after 31 went on to experience financial gains.
You’ll Be Better Equipped To Access Your Parenting Memories
Believe it or not, hormones can have an impact how your brain functions — and a 2016 University of Southern California study proves it. As it turns out, 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.