Sure, young parents get flack for having kids before they’ve finished college — or sometimes before they’ve even gone to prom — but older moms get plenty parent-shaming, too. The haters show up to concern-troll: Won’t those children have to care for aging parents? Will the parents even have the energy to take care of them? The complaint list goes on. Worst of all, people are obsessed with the health risks children of older mothers face since they’re more likely than younger moms to have preexisting health issues. Miscarriages, cardiovascular problems, chromosomal normalities, and more are considered as potential risks.
But what these onlookers don’t take into account is that couples are choosing to have children later on in life (with or without your criticism!) and that their decision is theirs alone. And it turns out it may even have some heretofore unknown benefits: According to a Dutch survey, researchers discovered that children born to older parents are actually better behaved. In which case, maybe we should all be waiting longer to have kids? I mean, isn’t every parent’s dream to experience fewer Walmart tantrums per week?
According to parental and teacher reports, by analyzing the behavioral patterns of 32,892 Dutch children between the ages of 10-12 with parents ages 16-68, the study authors unearthed that the kids with older parents had less disobedience and aggression issues. “With respect to common behavior problems, we found no reason for future parents to worry about a harmful effect of having a child at an older age,” explains study leader Marielle Zondervan-Zwijnenburg in the survey. You may be wondering: Cool that kids with older parents behave better, but why?
“It’s possible that some of the reason why older parents have children with fewer problems like aggression is that older parents have more resources and higher levels of education,” explains study co-author Dorret Boomsma in the survey. “But it is important to note that the higher average educational level of older parents does not completely explain the decreased levels of externalizing problems in their children.”
Education aside, older parents are more likely in a better socioeconomic position to provide for their children than, say, a teenage parent is. However, the study authors also determined that income level is not the sole reason why these children are better behaved. Maybe we can chalk it up to the simple wisdom — and increased chill factor — of age?
Regardless of the “why” behind these findings, one thing’s worth reminding the haters: Your right to decide when (and whether) to have children is entirely up to you and what works for your family.