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Soc Sci Res. 2015 Mar;50:343-66. doi: 10.1016/j.ssresearch.2014.09.001. Epub 2014 Sep 21.

Growth curve analyses of the relationship between early maternal age and children's mathematics and reading performance.

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Houston Education Research Consortium, Kinder Institute for Urban Research, Rice University, 6100 Main Street, MS-28, Houston, TX 77005, United States. Electronic address:


Regarding the methods used to examine the early maternal age-child academic outcomes relationship, the extant literature has tended to examine change using statistical analyses that fail to appreciate that individuals vary in their rates of growth. Of the one study I have been able to find that employs a true growth model to estimate this relationship, the authors only controlled for characteristics of the maternal household after family formation; confounding background factors of mothers that might select them into early childbearing, a possible source of bias, were ignored. The authors' findings nonetheless suggested an inverse relationship between early maternal age, i.e., a first birth between the ages of 13 and 17, and Canadian adolescents' mean math performance at age 10. Early maternal age was not related to the linear slope of age. To elucidate whether the early maternal age-child academic outcomes association, treated in a growth context, is consistent with this finding, the present study built on it using US data and explored children's mathematics and reading trajectories from age 5 on. Its unique contribution is that it further explicitly controlled for maternal background factors and employed a three-level growth model with repeated measures of children nested within their mothers. Though the strength of the relationship varied between mean initial academic performance and mean academic growth, results confirmed that early maternal age was negatively related to children's mathematics and reading achievement, net of post-teen first birth child-specific and maternal household factors. Once maternal background factors were included, there was no statistically significant relationship between early maternal age and either children's mean initial mathematics and reading scores or their mean mathematics and reading growth.


Achievement; Early maternal age; Growth curve modeling; Teen first birth

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