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Fertility history and cognition in later life

Read, Sanna and Grundy, Emily ORCID: 0000-0002-9633-1116 (2017) Fertility history and cognition in later life. Journals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 72 (6). 1021 - 1031. ISSN 1079-5014

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Identification Number: 10.1093/geronb/gbw013


Objectives To investigate the association between fertility history and cognition in older men and women. Method We analyzed associations between number of children (parity) and timing of births with level and change in cognition among 11,233 men and women aged 50+ in England using latent growth curve models. Models were adjusted for age, socioeconomic position, health, depressive symptoms, control, social contacts, activities, and isolation. Results Low (0–1 child) and high parity (3+ children) compared to medium parity (2 children) were associated with poorer cognitive functioning, as was an early age at entry to parenthood (<20 women/23 men). Many of these associations disappeared when socioeconomic position and health were controlled. For women, however, adjusting for socioeconomic position and social contacts strengthened the association between childlessness and poor cognition. Late motherhood (>35) was associated with better cognitive function. Conclusion Associations between fertility history and cognition were to large extent accounted for socioeconomic position, partly because this influenced health and social engagement. Poorer cognition in childless people and better cognition among mothers experiencing child birth at higher ages suggest factors related to childbearing/rearing that are beneficial for later cognitive functioning, although further research into possible earlier selection factors is needed.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2016 The Authors
Divisions: Social Policy
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
R Medicine > RZ Other systems of medicine
Date Deposited: 16 Feb 2016 11:15
Last Modified: 22 May 2024 05:33
Projects: ES/L001896/1, 324055
Funders: Economic and Social Research Council, National Institute for Health Research, European Research Council Advanced

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