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Contemporary and Historical Evidence to Suggest that Women’s Preference for Age at Birth of First Child Remains Consistent Across Time

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Abstract

Women’s ability to reproduce is restricted by menarche and menopause. First children are, however, not typically born until some years after the onset of puberty. Other factors therefore contribute towards this delay. In this context, women’s hips do not reach full adult form until they are in their mid-20s. Therefore, physiological and morphological factors appear to determine an optimum age-range for reproduction. The following studies were conducted in order to investigate this hypothesis. Study 1 asked nulliparous women questions about ages at which particular life events related to reproduction should ideally occur. This revealed their preferred age at birth of first child to be approximately 27 years old. Study 2 replicated these findings and further showed that women with children actually had their first child at a very similar age (27.93 [±0.79]). Findings from Study 3 were also remarkably consistent (28.15 [±0.39]). Study 4 examined the 1901 UK Census record and incorporated an analysis of the influence of wealth. Middle class women were on average 24.88 (±0.22) years old at the birth of their first child. Poor women were on average 23.50 (±0.20) years old. These figures at least approximate to findings from Studies 1–3, which is noteworthy given that modern contraceptive methods were not widely available at the time. It is concluded that female strategies to delay giving birth to their first child until they are of an age that approaches or coincides with their full hip maturation are enduring across time.

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Correspondence to Colin A. Hendrie.

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Hendrie, C.A., Brewer, G., Lewis, H. et al. Contemporary and Historical Evidence to Suggest that Women’s Preference for Age at Birth of First Child Remains Consistent Across Time. Arch Sex Behav 43, 1373–1378 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-014-0290-6

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-014-0290-6

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