This study investigates how women’s and men’s fertility history affect their health in later life and if this relationship varies across countries and cohorts. We use life history data and current health status of persons aged 50 and over from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) for 13 countries. Country-fixed effects regressions show that parenthood itself and the number of children have little impact on later life health, but fertility timing is important. Moreover, significant country and cohort differences show that the health implications of timing depend upon the socio-historic context.
If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.
Aassve, Arnstein, Stefano Mazzuco, and Letizia Mencarini. 2005. Childbearing and Well-Being: A Comparative Analysis of European Welfare Regimes. Journal of European Social Policy 15(4): 283–299.
Aitken, Zoe, Cameryn C. Garrett, Belinda Hewitt, Louise Keogh, Jane S. Hocking, and Anne M. Kavanagh. 2015. The Maternal Health Outcomes of Paid Maternity Leave: A Systematic Review. Social Science & Medicine 130: 32–41.
Allison, Paul D. 2009. Fixed Effects Regression Models. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications.
Arnett, Jeffrey J. 1998. Risk Behavior and Family Role Transitions During the Twenties. Journal of Youth and Adolescence 27(3): 301–320.
Bambra, Clare. 2006. Health Status and the Worlds of Welfare. Social Policy and Society 5(1): 53–62.
Barban, Nicola. 2013. Family Trajectories and Health: A Life Course Perspective. European Journal of Population/Revue européenne de Démographie 29(4): 357–385.
Beckfield, Jason, Clare Bambra, Terje A. Eikemo, Tim Huijts, Courtney McNamara, and Claus Wendt. 2015. An Institutional Theory of Welfare State Effects on the Distribution of Population Health. Social Theory & Health 13(3–4): 227–244.
Ben-David, Alon, Saralee Glassner, Eyal Schiff, Aliza S. Zahav, Valentina Boyko, and Liat Lerner-Geva. 2016. Pregnancy and Birth Outcomes Among Primaparae at Very Advanced Maternal Age: At What Price? Maternal and Child Health Journal 20: 833–842.
Billari, Francesco C., Hans-Peter Kohler, Gunnar Andersson, and Hans Lundström. 2007. Approaching the Limit: Long-Term Trends in Late and Very Late Fertility. Population and Development Review 33(1): 149–170.
Börsch-Supan, Axel, Martina Brandt, Christian Hunkler, Thorsten Kneip, Julie Korbmacher, Frederic Malter, Barbara Schaan, Stephanie Stuck, and Sabrina Zuber. 2013. Data Resource Profile: The Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE). International Journal of Epidemiology 42(4): 992–1001.
Breart, Gérard. 1997. Delayed Childbearing. European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology 75(1): 71–73.
Brockmann, Hilke and Thomas Klein. 2004. Love and Death in Germany: The Marital Biography and Its Effect on Mortality. Journal of Marriage and Family 66(3): 567–581.
Burton-Jeangros, Claudine, Stéphane Cullati, Amanda Sacker, and David Blane (eds.). 2015. A Life Course Perspective on Health Trajectories and Transitions. Cham: Springer.
Carlson, Daniel L. 2011. Explaining the Curvilinear Relationship Between Age at First Birth and Depression Among Women. Social Science & Medicine 72(4): 494–503.
Castles, Francis G. and Herbert Obinger. 2008. Worlds, Families, Regimes: Country Clusters in European and OECD Area Public Policy. West European Politics 31(1/2): 321–344.
Curtis, Lori and Shelley Phipps. 2004. Social Transfers and the Health Status of Mothers in Norway and Canada. Social Science & Medicine 58(12): 2499–2507.
DiPrete, Thomas A. and Gregory M. Eirich. 2006. Cumulative Advantage as a Mechanism for Inequality: A Review of Theoretical and Empirical Developments. Annual Review of Sociology 32(1): 271–297.
Eggebeen, David J. and Chris Knoester. 2001. Does Fatherhood Matter for Men? Journal of Marriage and Family 63(2): 381–393.
Freijka, Tomas. 2016. The Demographic Transition Revisited: A Cohort Perspective. Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research Working Paper, Rostock.
Furstenberg, Frank F. 2007. Destinies of the Disadvantaged: The Politics of Teen Childbearing. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
Furstenberg Jr., Frank F., Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, and S. Philip Morgan. 1987. Adolescent Mothers in Later Life. New York, NY, US: Cambridge University Press.
Gibney, Sarah, Liam Delaney, Mary Codd, and Tony Fahey. 2015. Lifetime Childlessness, Depressive Mood and Quality of Life Among Older Europeans. Social Indicators Research 130(1): 1–19.
Goisis, Alice, Daniel C. Schneider, and Mikko Myrskylä. 2017. The Reversing Association Between Advanced Maternal Age and Child Cognitive Ability: Evidence From Three UK Birth Cohorts. International Journal of Epidemiology 46(3): 850–859.
Goode, William J. 1960. A Theory of Role Strain. American Sociological Review 25(4): 483–496.
Grundy, Emily. 2009. Women’s Fertility and Mortality in Late Mid Life: A Comparison of Three Contemporary Populations. American Journal of Human Biology: The Official Journal of the Human Biology Council 21: 541–547.
Grundy, Emily and Cecilia Tomassini. 2005. Fertility History and Health in Later Life: A Record Linkage Study in England and Wales. Social Science & Medicine 61(1): 217–228.
Hank, Karsten. 2010. Childbearing History, Later-Life Health, and Mortality in Germany. Population Studies 64(3): 275–291.
Hansen, Thomas. 2012. Parenthood and Happiness: A Review of Folk Theories Versus Empirical Evidence. Social Indicators Research 108(1): 29–64.
Helbig, Sylvia, Thomas Lampert, Michael Klose, and Frank Jacobi. 2006. Is Parenthood Associated With Mental Health? Findings From an Epidemiological Community Survey. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology 41(11): 889–896.
Henretta, John C. 2007. Early Childbearing, Marital Status, and Women’s Health and Mortality After Age 50. Journal of Health and Social Behavior 48(3): 254–266.
Huijts, Tim, Gerbert Kraaykamp, and Subbaya V. Subramanian. 2013. Childlessness and Psychological Well-Being in Context: A Multilevel Study on 24 European Countries. European Sociological Review 29(1): 32–47.
Hurt, Lisa S., Carine Ronsmans, and Sara L. Thomas. 2006. The Effect of Number of Births on Women’s Mortality: Systematic Review of the Evidence for Women Who Have Completed Their Childbearing. Population Studies 60(1): 55–71.
Kennedy, Patricia, Naonori Kodate, and Nadine Reibling. 2015. Welfare Regimes, Healthcare Regimes and Maternity Services and Policy: A Comparative Perspective. Pp. 4–19 in Maternity Services and Policy in an International Context: Risk, Citizenship, and Welfare Regimes, edited by Patricia Kennedy and Naonori Kodate. Abingdon: Routledge.
Kington, Raynard, Lee Lillard, and Jeannette Rogowski. 1997. Reproductive History, Socioeconomic Status, and Self-Reported Health Status of Women Aged 50 Years or Older. American Journal of Public Health 87(1): 33–37.
Kohler, Hans-Peter, Jere R. Behrman, and Axel Skytthe. 2005. Partner Plus Children = Happiness? The Effects of Partnerships and Fertility on Well-Being. Population and Development Review 31(3): 407–445.
Kozuki, Naoko, Anne C. C. Lee, Mariangela F. Silveira, Ayesha Sania, Joshua P. Vogel, Linda Adair, Fernando Barros, Laura E. Caulfield, Parul Christian, Wafaie Fawzi, Jean Humphrey, Lieven Huybregts, Aroonsri Mongkolchati, Robert Ntozini, David Osrin, Dominique Roberfroid, James Tielsch, Anjana Vaidya, Robert E. Black, Joanne Katz, and Child Health Epidemiology Reference Group (CHERG) Small-for-Gestational Age Preterm Birth Working Group. 2013. The Associations of Parity and Maternal Age With Small-for-Gestational Age, Preterm, and Neonatal and Infant Mortality: A Meta-Analysis. BMC Public Health 13(3): 5.
Kroll, Lars Eric, Stephan Mueters, Petra Rattay, and Thomas Lampert. 2016. Employment, Family and Health in Men of Working Age in Germany Results of the GEDA Studies 2009–2012. Bundesgesundheitsblatt-Gesundheitsforschung-Gesundheitsschutz 59(8): 932–941.
Lacey, Rebecca, Amanda Sacker, Steven Bell, Meena Kumari, Diana Worts, Peggy McDonough, Diana Kuh, and Anne McMunn. 2017. Work-Family Life Courses and BMI Trajectories in Three British Birth Cohorts. International Journal of Obesity 41: 332–339.
Lisonkova, Sarka, Jayson Potts, Giulia M. Muraca, Neda Razaz, Yessar Sabr, Wee-Shian Chan, and Michael S. Kramer. 2017. Maternal Age and Severe Maternal Morbidity: A Population-Based Retrospective Cohort Study. PLoS Medicine 14(5): e1002307.
Loudon, Irvine. 2000. Maternal Mortality in the Past and Its Relevance to Developing Countries Today. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 72(1): 241–246.
Maas, Cora J. M, and Joop J. Hox. 2005. Sufficient Sample Sizes for Multilevel Modeling. Methodology 1(3): 86–92.
Marks, Stephen R. 1977. Multiple Roles and Role Strain: Some Notes on Human Energy, Time and Commitment. American Sociological Review 42(6): 921–936.
Mayer, Karl Ulrich. 2009. New Directions in Life Course Research. Annual Review of Sociology 35(1): 413–433.
Merrill, Ray M., Stephanie Fugal, Lelinneth B. Novilla, and Matthew C. Raphael. 2005. Cancer Risk Associated With Early and Late Maternal Age at First Birth. Gynecologic Oncology 96(3): 583–593.
Mirowsky, John. 2005. Age at First Birth, Health, and Mortality. Journal of Health and Social Behavior 46(1): 32–50.
Mirowsky, John and Catherine E Ross. 2002. Depression, Parenthood, and Age at First Birth. Social Science & Medicine 54(8): 1281–1298.
Mirowsky, John. 2002. Parenthood and Health: The Pivotal and Optimal Age at First Birth. Social Forces 81(1): 315–349.
Möhring, Katja. 2012. The Fixed Effects Approach as Alternative to Multilevel Models for Cross-National Analyses. Paper presented at the 10th ESPAnet Conference, Edinburgh, Scotland, September 6–8, 2012.
Muñoz, Nubia, Silvia Franceschi, Cristina Bosetti, Victor Moreno, Rolando Herrero, Jennifer S. Smith, Keerti V. Shah, Chris J. L. M. Meijer, and F. Xavier Bosch. 2002. Role of Parity and Human Papillomavirus in Cervical Cancer: The IARC Multicentric Case-Control Study. The Lancet 359(9312): 1093–1101.
Nauck, Bernhard, Chin-Chun Yi, Johannes Huinink, and Michael Feldhaus. 2009. Family Research From the Life Course Perspective. International Sociology 24(3): 299–324.
Nomaguchi, Kei M. and Suzanne M. Bianchi. 2004. Exercise Time: Gender Differences in the Effects of Marriage, Parenthood, and Employment. Journal of Marriage and Family 66(2): 413–430.
Nomaguchi, Kei M. and Melissa A. Milkie. 2003. Costs and Rewards of Children: The Effects of Becoming a Parent on Adults’ Lives. Journal of Marriage and Family 65(2): 356–374.
O’Flaherty, Martin, Janeen Baxter, Michele Haynes, and Gavin Turrell. 2015. Age at First Birth and Long-Term Health in Life Course Perspective: Contextualizing the Health Effects of Fertility Timing. The Australian Research Council Life Course Centre Working Paper Series 28.
Orloff, Ann Shola. 1993. Gender and the Social Rights of Citizenship: The Comparative Analysis of Gender Relations and Welfare States. American Sociological Review 58(3): 303–328.
Ozalp, Sinan, Huseyin Mete Tanir, Turgay Sener, Sibel Yazan, and Ali E. Keskin. 2003. Health Risks for Early (≤ 19) and Late (≥ 35) Childbearing. Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics 268(3): 172–174.
Prince, Martin J., Reischies F., A. T. F. Beekman, R. Fuhrur, C. Jonker, S. L. Kivela, B. A. Lawtor, A. Lobo, H. Magnusson, M. Fichter, H. van Oyen, M. Roelands, I. Skoog, C. Turrina, J. R. M. Copeland. 1999. Development of the EURO-D Scale – a European, Union Initiative to Compare Symptoms of Depression in 14 European Centres. The British Journal of Psychiatry 174(4): 330–338.
Read, Sanna and Emily Grundy. 2011. Fertility History and Quality of Life in Older Women and Men. Ageing & Society 31(1): 125–145.
Read, Sanna, Emily Grundy, and Douglas A. Wolf. 2011. Fertility History, Health, and Health Changes in Later Life: A Panel Study of British Women and Men Born 1923–1949. Population Studies 65(2): 201–215.
Restrepo-Méndez, Maria C., Debbie A. Lawlor, Bernardo L. Horta, Alicia Matijasevich, Iná S. Santos, Ana M. B. Menezes, Fernando, C. Barros, and Cesar G. Victora. 2015. The Association of Maternal Age With Birthweight and Gestational Age: A Cross-Cohort Comparison. Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology 29: 31–40.
Russo, Jose, Raquel Moral, Gabriela A. Balogh, Daniel Mailo, and Irma H. Russo. 2005. The Protective Role of Pregnancy in Breast Cancer. Breast Cancer Research: BCR 7(3): 131–142.
Scalone, Francesco. 2014. Effects of Nutritional Stress and Socio-Economic Status on Maternal Mortality in Six German Villages, 1766–1863. Population Studies 68(2): 217–236.
Schröder, M. (ed.). 2011. Retrospective Data Collection in the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe. SHARELIFE Methodology. Mannheim: Mannheim Research Institute for the Economics of Aging (MEA).
Shaw, Mary, Debbie A. Lawlor, and Jake M. Najman. 2006. Teenage Children of Teenage Mothers: Psychological, Behavioral, and Health Outcomes From an Australian Prospective Longitudinal Study. Social Science & Medicine 62(10): 2526–2539.
Sieber, Sam D. 1974. Toward a Theory of Role Accumulation. American Sociological Review 39(4): 567–578.
Spence, Naomi J. 2008. The Long-Term Consequences of Childbearing: Physical and Psychological Well-Being of Mothers in Later Life. Research on Aging 30(6): 722–751.
Tanaka, Kimiko and Nan E. Johnson. 2014. Childlessness and Mental Well-Being in a Global Context. Journal of Family Issues 37(8): 1027–1045.
Taylor, Julie Lounds. 2009. Midlife Impacts of Adolescent Parenthood. Journal of Family Issues 30(4): 484–510.
Teachman, Jay. 2010. Family Life Course Statuses and Transitions: Relationships With Health Limitations. Sociological Perspectives 53(2): 201–219.
Tomka, Béla. 2013. A Social History of Twentieth-Century Europe. Abingdon: Routledge.
Umberson, Debra, Tetyana Pudrovska, and Corinne Reczek. 2010. Parenthood, Childlessness, and Well-Being: A Life Course Perspective. Journal of Marriage and Family 72(3): 612–629.
Westendorp, Rudi. G. and Thomas B. Kirkwood. 1998. Human Longevity at the Cost of Reproductive Success. Nature 396(6713): 743–746.
Yi, Zeng and James Vaupel. 2004. Association of Late Childbearing With Healthy Longevity Among the Oldest-Old in China. Population Studies 58(1): 37–53.