How to give your child a better start in life: delay parenthood

The Guardian (UK) Friday October 17 2008

The children of young, poorly educated mothers are more likely to face health and educational problems before they start school, according to a study which suggests that delaying parenthood to get the best qualifications and a career first gives children a better start in life. The study, based on in-depth interviews with 15,000 families whose first child was born at the turn of the 21st century, presents an intimate portrait of family life. Half of parents in the UK admit to smacking their child, a third have bribed them and three in 10 children reach the age of five living in poverty.

Children whose parents have no qualifications are a year behind in their vocabulary by the time they start school. At five, boys are on average two months behind their female classmates, a gap which will widen at every step of their education. “Children with highly educated parents, and from families with two working parents, display higher cognitive ability and appear to have fewer behaviour problems,” the Millennium Cohort Study says.Heather Joshi, the Institute of Education director of the report, said: “Parents who are well educated are better off: better housing, live in nicer places and are older. The most disadvantaged families have no resident father, the mother has no education and she is younger. Waiting until 30 to have children seems to be associated with a lot of benefits for the family.”