Childbearing Patterns Differ Across Three U.S. Generations

Historical and social factors impact childbearing patterns across generations

FRIDAY, Aug. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Each generation of women faces unique sociohistorical experiences, which impact childbearing patterns across generations, according to a report published Aug. 11 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics.

Sharon E. Kirmeyer, Ph.D., and Brady E. Hamilton, Ph.D., from the National Center for Health Statistics at the CDC in Hyattsville, Md., analyzed the differences in childbearing patterns among three selected birth cohorts of women, representing generations born at 25-year intervals, in 1910, 1935, and 1960.

The authors report that 80 percent of the women from all cohorts had a child by age 40. Women born in 1935 had the most children and those born in 1960 had the fewest. Women born in 1910 and 1935 were youngest at first childbirth (more than 70 percent of first births before 25 years of age), while those born in 1960 were oldest at first childbirth. Women born in 1910 were equally likely to have no, one, or two children; of women born in 1935, 37 percent had four or more children; and women born in 1960 were most likely to have two children. By age 50 years, women born in 1910 were more likely to be childless, and those born in 1935 least likely. A drop in marriages, and uncertainty due to World War II and the Great Depression affected childbearing of the 1910 cohort; an improvement in the economy and increasing marriages after the war affected the 1935 cohort; and increased education, employment, and fertility control and other factors led to oldest childbearing age and smaller families in the 1960 cohort.

"These distinct fertility patterns were a product of sociohistorical forces during these generations' reproductive lives," the authors write.

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Physician’s Briefing Staff

Physician’s Briefing Staff

Published on August 12, 2011

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