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Obstet Gynecol. 1993 Jul;82(1):105-11.

Timing of reproductive life stages.

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Alan Guttmacher Institute, New York, New York.



To identify typical ages at which women pass through reproductive transitions and to ascertain whether they differ by poverty status, race, and ethnicity, and from men's transition ages.


Using the 1982 and 1988 National Surveys of Family Growth, the 1988 National Survey of Young Men, and the March 1988 Current Population Survey, the timing of transitions between stages was measured by the ages at which respondents had passed specific milestones.


By age 17.4, half of the young women surveyed and by age 16.6, half of the young men had had intercourse. The length of time the typical woman spent being sexually active before marriage increased by more than 1.5 years, to nearly 7 years, between 1982 and 1988. Half of all women surveyed had become mothers by age 26 and by age 30 half intended to have no more children; half were sterile for contraceptive or noncontraceptive reasons by age 35.7. Non-Hispanic white and higher-income women typically married before their first birth, whereas half of black women became mothers almost 6 years before a similar proportion had married. Lower-income and Hispanic women demonstrated smaller but similar gaps.


Differences among subgroups and the broad age ranges at which women move between stages highlight the importance of focusing service delivery and education according to the stage of a woman's reproductive life, not just her age. Current patterns of timing are not prescriptive, but provide a framework for directing efforts to provide women and men with needed information and services and to assess the possible effects.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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