Late maternal age and parenting practices

Fausta Ongaro, Università di Padova
Silvia Meggiolaro, Università di Padova

Recent decades have shown a gradual rise in the age at which women give birth to their children in many developed countries. This process of late fertility may have important consequences on parenting. The present study aims to analyse whether and how maternal age influences parenting practices with respect to the presence of parents in their children’s daily life. We refer to the early infancy period and consider three domains of parenting: a) support for the baby’s care (grandparents, babysitter, or crèche), b) the mothers’ return to work after childbirth, and c) the father’s time spent with his child. Our hypothesis is that older mothers may be more physically present in the daily life of infants than the younger ones, particularly in the case of first child. The topic is analyzed considering data from the Italian Birth Sample Survey (conducted in 2005 by the National Statistical Institute). Multivariate models do not support our hypothesis that older parents may be more physically present in the daily life of their infants than the younger ones and this is documented even in the case of first child: older mothers who were employed before their pregnancy return to work after childbirth with the same speed of the younger mothers and if they work after childbirth, they are more supported than younger mothers in child-care by non-relatives, such as baby-sitter and crèche. Only among not employed women, children of older mother are more likely to be cared for by parents than by relatives but: this is limited to the first child and the probability to be cared for by the parents equals that of be cared for by non-relatives. As regards the fathers, older mothers do not present in general different involvement in the daily life of their child’s fathers with respect to the others.

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Presented in Session 87: Gender division of care and domestic work