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Aging Ment Health. 2008 Sep;12(5):605-14. doi: 10.1080/13607860802343084.

Early motherhood and mental health in midlife: a study of British and American cohorts.

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  • 1Department of Sociology, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, USA.



Examine the relationship between early age at first birth and mental health among women in their fifties.


Analysis of data on women from a British 1946 birth cohort study and the U.S. Health and Retirement Study birth cohort of 1931-1941.


In both samples a first birth before 21 years, compared to a later first birth, is associated with poorer mental health. The association between early first birth and poorer mental health persists in the British study even after controlling for early socioeconomic status, midlife socioeconomic status and midlife health. In the U.S. sample, the association becomes non-significant after controlling for educational attainment.


Early age at first birth is associated with poorer mental health among women in their fifties in both studies, though the pattern of associations differs.

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