Research has revealed that it is class and background, rather than education that has a greater impact on women becoming mothers.
It has been widely presumed that a woman’s desire to go to higher education before starting a family was the reason women postponed motherhood, but now new research has been uncovered.
Academics at the University of Oxford and two Universities In the Netherlands, Groningen and Wageningen believe they have new information on why women are starting families later on in life.
Lead researcher, Dr Felix Tropf from the Department of Sociology at the University of Oxford, said:
“A large part of the observed association between education and age at first birth in other studies can actually be explained by the family environment. “In isolation, education has a much smaller effect.”
The researchers took data from the Office for National Statistics on women born in the UK between 1944 and 1967, and tracked patterns of educational enrollment to see whether it had impacted reproductive behaviour.
Significantly, the final journal calculates that for every extra year of educational enrollment after the age of 12, a woman delayed motherhood by an average of six months
In the United States and Europe, the average age of first time mothers grew by four to five years at the end of the 20th century, in comparison to figures at the end of the Second World War.
“Our research casts doubt on previous studies that claim a strong link between educational expansion for women and the postponement of motherhood. We find that both education and a woman’s fertility choices seem to be mostly influenced by her family background, instead of education influencing fertility behaviour directly. For example, families provide social and financial support, and pass on genes affecting reproductive behaviour…”