A woman's personality can affect when she chooses to have her first child, according to a new study. The research found that traits such as 'conscientiousness' and 'openness' were associated with delaying motherhood, while more neurotic or extrovert women were more likely to have children young.
The study of over 16,000 mothers, by the Institute of Social and Economic Research, looked at the relationship between fertility, education and personality traits.
Researchers cross-referenced five different personality types - conscientious, neurotic, open, agreeable and extrovert - with the age at which the women had their first child.
Lara Tavares, the author of the study, said that the average educated woman had their first child two years later than her average less-educated counterpart - but analysis of personality traits could explain this timing gap more clearly.
'Personality traits influence both education and fertility decisions,' she said. 'More 'open-minded' people might be less vulnerable to the social pressure for having children.
'Because people who score high on openness usually have wide interests, they are less likely to be exclusively family-oriented. Consequently, they might value their careers more and therefore face higher psychological childbearing costs.'
The research showed that more 'open' women, while more intellectual, had a tendency towards unconventional or rebellious behaviour, such as putting off having children.
By contrast, agreeable women were found to be more caring and kind, traits that are associated with motherhood. Women who scored highly in this category also had their children young.
Conscientious women, who delayed becoming mothers, were more likely to be self-disciplined and well-organised, while extrovert personalities, who had children relatively young, were more assertive.
The more neurotic of the women interviewed for the study were found to be less emotionally stable, with a higher tendency to be anxious, depressed and insecure.
The age at which a woman has her first child has increased across Europe. In 1980, the average age of a first-time mother in the UK was 25. By 2006 it had risen to 30.
Article: 27th July 2010 www.dailymail.co.uk
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