The factors that affect how a child grows up are nearly infinite. However, psychological research on children has found that the age of a child’s parents has a significant effect on many of the important aspects of growing up. Though the effects of raising a child at a later age tend to be positive, this does not mean older parents are necessarily better parents. A good parent is one that utilizes a good parenting style, regardless of age.
The Big Picture: Older Parents are Better… Kind of…
Studies across many disciplines, from sociology to developmental psychology have looked how the effect a parent’s age can have on the children she raises. And according to Susan E. Mayer, Ph.D., writing for the Ministry of Social Development, the overall connection is that older parents tend to raise children that are better in many aspects, from social functioning to educational attainment. However, psychologists are careful not to draw drastic conclusions from such studies because of the possibility of other aspects that weren’t focused on. For example, parental age and parental income are strongly related, so the characteristic making “better parents” might not be age but income. In any case, though the trend is that older parents tend to raise “better” children, all parents -- regardless of age or income -- should work on their parenting techniques, the true transmitter of child motivation and rearing.
Reasons Older Parents Might Be Better
Besides the ability to spend increased income that tends to come with age on children’s education, parenting information and extracurricular activities, an older parent also has the ability to share his plentiful experiences and knowledge with his child. The older a person gets, the more mistakes he makes, the more knowledge he gains and the more social skills he gains. An older person is also more focused on strengthening his family relationships than is focused on personal gain, such as in a corporate office that requires employees to work overtime to excel. Thus, older people are likely to spend more time and mental effort on raising their children, says Kevin Durkin, author of "Developmental Social Psychology: From Infancy to Old Age."
Older People Just Do Things Differently
Just as a child interacts with his peers in a different manner as he grows up, parents interact with their children differently as they grow. The parenting practices of older parents differ from those of younger parents, according to the article “Perceived Parental Stress: The Relative Contributions of Child and Parent Characteristics,” which appeared in the 2011 issue of the "Journal on Developmental Disabilities." Specifically, older parents tend to show and feel less stress in their parenting efforts, use better coping strategies and engage in more positive reinforcement. Such a parenting style, commonly referred to as the authoritative style, tends to yield the best results in the academic performance, mental stability and social success of children.
Actually, Age Doesn’t Matter
Though statistically, older parents tend to raise “better” children, a parent who wants what’s best for her children shouldn’t care about her age but about how she acts toward her child. Even parents at the “best” age for raising children can end up terrible parents if they don’t put effort into their parenting; good parenting strategies work regardless of age. So, as a parent, allow your child to grow up to fulfill his potential. Enhance his social-emotional skill levels by allowing the expression of emotions. Avoid acting on anger you might feel toward your child, instead discussing the problems with him on his level. Push your child into challenging but rewarding activities to help him build his self-esteem. Overall, focusing on your parenting skills rather than your age will yield the largest benefit for your family, according to John Gottman, author of "Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child."
- Ministry of Social Development: The Influence of Parental Income on Children’s Outcomes
- Developmental social psychology: from infancy to old age; Kevin Durkin
- Journal on Developmental Disabilities: Perceived Parental Stress: The Relative Contributions of Child and Parent Characteristics
- Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child; John Gottman
- Comstock Images/Stockbyte/Getty Images