Young maternal age at first birth and mental health later in life: does the association vary by birth cohort?

Aitken, Zoe, Hewitt, Belinda, Keogh, Louise, LaMontagne, Anthony D., Bentley, Rebecca and Kavanagh, Anne M. (2016) Young maternal age at first birth and mental health later in life: does the association vary by birth cohort?. Social Science and Medicine, 157 9-17. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2016.03.037

Author Aitken, Zoe
Hewitt, Belinda
Keogh, Louise
LaMontagne, Anthony D.
Bentley, Rebecca
Kavanagh, Anne M.
Title Young maternal age at first birth and mental health later in life: does the association vary by birth cohort?
Journal name Social Science and Medicine   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1873-5347
Publication date 2016-05
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1016/j.socscimed.2016.03.037
Open Access Status Not Open Access
Volume 157
Start page 9
End page 17
Total pages 9
Place of publication Kidlington, Oxford, United Kingdom
Publisher Pergamon Press
Collection year 2017
Language eng
Formatted abstract
Background: It is well established that maternal age at childbirth has implications for women's mental health in the short term, however there has been little research regarding longer term implications and whether this association has changed over time. We investigated longer term mental health consequences for young mothers in Australia and contrasted the effects between three birth cohorts.

Methods: Using thirteen waves of data from 4262 women aged 40 years or above participating in the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey, we compared the mental health of women who had their first child aged 15–19 years, 20–24 years, and 25 years and older. Mental health was measured using the mental health component summary score of the SF-36. We used random-effects linear regression models to generate estimates of the association between age at first birth and mental health, adjusted for early life socioeconomic characteristics (country of birth, parents' employment status and occupation) and later life socioeconomic characteristics (education, employment, income, housing tenure, relationship status and social support). We examined whether the association changed over time, testing for effect modification across three successive birth cohorts.

Results: In models adjusted for early life and later life socioeconomic characteristics, there was strong evidence of an association between teenage births and poor mental health, with mental health scores on average 2.76 to 3.96 points lower for mothers aged younger than 20 years than for mothers aged 25 years and older (Late Baby Boom (born 1936–1945): −3.96, 95% CI −5.38, −2.54; Early Baby Boom (born 1946–1955): −3.01, 95% CI −4.32, −1.69; Lucky Few (born 1956–1965): −2.76, 95% CI −4.34, −1.18), and evidence of an association for mothers aged 20–24 years compared to mothers aged 25 years and older in the most recent birth cohort only (−1.09, 95% CI −2.01, −0.17). There was some indication (though weak) that the association increased in more recent cohorts.

Conclusion: This study highlights that young mothers, and particularly teenage mothers, are a vulnerable group at high risk of poor mental health outcomes compared to mothers aged 25 years and above, and there was some suggestion (though weak) that the health disparities increased over time.
Keyword Australia
Cohort effects
Health disparities
Maternal age
Mental health
Time trends
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Institute for Social Science Research - Publications
HERDC Pre-Audit
School of Social Science Publications
Version Filter Type
Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 0 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article
Scopus Citation Count Cited 0 times in Scopus Article
Google Scholar Search Google Scholar
Created: Tue, 26 Apr 2016, 00:24:45 EST by System User on behalf of Learning and Research Services (UQ Library)