Saturday, September 24, 2011

A uniform ideal

In the light of the post I wrote a few months ago about negative attitudes towards older parents, I was interested to spot that YouGov had conducted a poll asking people when the best age to have children is.  The results are far starker than I would have expected -

Best age for women to have children :

Under 20 - 1%

20-24 - 18%

25-29 - 56%

30-34 - 17%

35-39 - 1%

40+ - 0%

Best age for men to have children :

Under 20 - 1%

20-24 - 7%

25-29 - 42%

30-34 - 36%

35-39 - 5%

40+ - 1%

Now, admittedly, there's a world of difference between asking people what the best age to have children is, and what would be a perfectly reasonable age. And bearing in mind that women's fertility tends to drop significantly from the mid-thirties onwards, it's no great surprise that most respondents plumped for somewhere between 20 and 34 as the ideal. But even so, the extremes of those figures look creepily "North Korean" to me - 0% and 1% for age ranges in which lots and lots of people routinely have children? To put it in perspective, about 20% of babies are born to women over the age of 35, and about 3% to women over the age of 40. For men, the figures are a good bit higher than that.

It's a pity YouGov didn't probe the underlying reasons for this extraordinarily uniform rejection of the older (and indeed younger) age ranges, by testing perceptions of the challenges faced by parents of different ages.

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