Monday, December 22, 2014

Late-age motherhood is nothing new

The shift toward late motherhood – commonly defined as motherhood after 35 – is often presented as a story of progress and technological liberation from the biological clock. ...

While this triumphal narrative contains a few grains of truth, it is as simplistic as it is satisfying. History shows us that the “best age” to have a child is very much a product of the cultural and economic moment, not a just dictate of biology that we need to escape. ...

In fact, it was only after World War II that early parenthood became a cultural norm. A strong economy and widespread embrace of domesticity encouraged both early marriage and childbearing, resulting in a “baby boom” that lasted almost two decades. ...

The roots of our modern discussion on delayed parenthood lie in the 1970s, when the average age at first birth began to increase dramatically. The number of women having their first child between the ages of 30 and 34 almost doubled, from 7.3 births per 1,000 women in 1970 to 12.8 per 1,000 in 1980. But the 1980 figures mirror those recorded between 1920 and 1940, where the number of first births among women ages 30 to 34 averaged 12.1 births per 1,000 women.
--Jenna Healey, Washington Post, on the cyclicality of reproductive history