Earlier or later: When should you start a family?
- Forbes reports that the average age that women become first-time mothers in the US is 26, while for fathers, it is 31.
- Based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2021, the 'average cost of raising a child to adulthood, not including college expenses' was $267,233.
- The youngest mother in recorded history was Peruvian Lina Medina, who suffered from 'precocious puberty.' In 1939, at the age of only five years, she gave birth via c-section to a son.
- In 2010, at 94 years of age, Ramjit Raghav was given the title of 'World's Oldest Father' when his wife gave birth to their first son.
- A 2013 Gallup Poll revealed that according to respondents, age 25 or younger is the ideal time for a woman to have her first child, and age 26 or older is the ideal time for a man.
Since the advent of birth control in 1960 and the steady proliferation of secular sex education, the average age of both mothers and fathers has been on the rise. This suggests that given access to free information and reproductive choice, many people find good reasons to wait until later in life to have children.
Many opportunities which could benefit both parent and child are made inaccessible by early parenthood. Young parents may not be able to experience and accomplish all that they may have otherwise--and some of those life experiences may influence childhood development, as evidenced by a correlation between higher parental age and their children's educational success. This makes sense physiologically if parental ability hinges on maturity, considering that the human brain doesn't reach full maturity until 25 years of age.
Further, as the financial realities of parenthood grow increasingly arduous, it may be prudent to delay having children until financial stability is ensured, especially given the prevalence of child poverty in America.
Over the past two decades, rental inflation has risen faster than wage inflation, compelling many young adults to move back in with their parents—surely suboptimal conditions under which to become a parent.
The short-term financial toll on (especially single) mothers is well documented in the phenomenon of the motherhood gap. Furthermore, studies on the relationship between maternal age and lifetime earnings suggest that even in the long term, higher incomes are more accessible to women who wait until at least 31 years of age to have their first child.
For all these reasons, it makes more sense to wait to start a family.
Having children at an earlier age and stage in life can have numerous benefits, many of which are common sense.
Firstly, when someone knows that a child is dependent on them for their every need, it encourages more responsible and less reckless behavior on the part of the young parent. In many ways, people are forced to 'grow up' when they have kids.
And having kids at a young age also enables people to reap the rewards of a specific financial freedom. They aren't likely to be part of the so-called 'sandwich generation,' taking care of both kids and parents. Additionally, they can become empty nesters earlier on, enjoying some of the finer yet still exciting things before they are too old to do so.
Further, young parents simply have more energy to devote to parenting. Most people in their twenties typically have very little difficulty running on less sleep and keeping up with the demands of raising a family. They have higher energy levels and typically fewer health-related issues to slow them down.
Vacations and outings can also be more exciting when one starts a family early, as partaking in these activities at a younger age will often mean sharing some of the same wonderment at some of the simpler things, much like children will.
Starting a family earlier in life can definitely make things much easier in many aspects--despite the difficulties that sometimes affect younger couples, such as a lack of resources or money. However, even biology indicates that we are built to have children when we are younger.