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Good News for Older Mothers

来源:纽约时报    2017-04-13 06:27:08

        The first time I got pregnant, I was a comparatively young mother, for my demographic: I was 25, in medical school, surrounded by classmates who, for the most part, were not reproducing yet. By the third pregnancy, 11 years later, I was over 35, which classified me, in the obstetric terminology I had learned in medical school, as an “elderly multigravida,” that is, someone who was having a child but not her first child, after 35. (If it was your first child, you were an “elderly primigravida,” or “elderly primip” for short — even as a medical student, I had a strong sense that no woman had invented this terminology.)        第一次怀孕时,就我所在的群体——25岁、医学院学生、身边的同学大部分都还没生孩子——而言,我是一个相对年轻的妈妈。到11年后第三次怀孕时,我已经过了35岁了。按照我在医学院学到的产科术语,我属于“高龄经产妇”(elderly primigravida),即在35岁之后生孩子但不是第一个孩子的人(如果是第一个孩子,那就是“高龄初产妇”——即便作为一名医学院的学生,我也强烈地觉得发明这个术语的人不是女性)。
        So by certain standards, I have experience as both a somewhat younger mother and a somewhat older mother, though not at the extremes in either direction.        因此,按照某些标准,我既有作为比较年轻的母亲,又有作为年纪较大的母亲的经历,尽管在这两个方面都不算极端。
        National Vital Statistics Reports data released in January showed that in the United States, birthrates shifted in 2015: The birthrate for teenagers dropped to 22.3 births per 1,000 females ages 15 to 19 that year, a record low for the nation. And for women 30 through 44, the birthrates were the highest they have been since the baby boom era of the 1960s.        1月公布的《国家生命统计报告》(National Vital Statistics Reports)数据显示,2015年美国的出生率发生了变化:青少年中的出生率跌至每1000名15到19岁的女性生育22.3个孩子,创下美国历史最低水平。而在30到44岁的女性中,出生率达到了60年代婴儿潮时期以来的最高点。
        And as birthrates shift toward somewhat older mothers, researchers continue to look at what that says, both about who is getting pregnant when, and how that is associated with how their children do, especially when it comes to cognitive outcomes. (There’s also been some interesting research recently on paternal age, but these studies focused on the mothers.)        随着出生率向年纪较大的母亲转移,研究人员继续研究这意味着什么——关于什么人在什么时候怀孕,以及这对孩子的表现的影响,尤其是在认知能力方面的影响(最近也有关于父亲年龄的有趣研究,但这些研究的重点却是母亲)。
        The trend all over the developed world in recent years has been more women having more children later; mean age in the United States at birth of a first child increased from 24.9 to 26.3 from 2000 to 2014. And whether it’s a first child or a later child, more women giving birth are 35 and older, which is still classified as “advanced maternal age” (well, it beats “elderly”).        近年来,发达国家的趋势是,更多女性会在年龄大一些的时候要更多的孩子。美国生第一个孩子的年龄中位数从2000年的24.9岁增大到了2014年的26.3岁。无论是不是第一个孩子,在35岁及以上的年纪生孩子的女性增加了。这些人依然被归为“高龄产妇”(advanced maternal age,好吧,advanced好歹比elderly好一点)。
        In a study published in February in the International Journal of Epidemiology, researchers looked at evidence from three different large longitudinal studies in Britain, from 1958, 1970 and 2000-2, each involving around 10,000 children. They were looking at the association between maternal age at children’s birth and children’s cognitive ability when tested at age 10-11.        在2月刊登在《国际流行病学杂志》(International Journal of Epidemiology)上的一项研究中,研究人员研究了来自英国三项不同的大型纵向研究的证据。这三项研究分别是在1958年、1970年和2000~2002年之间进行,各自都有大约1万名儿童参加。他们研究了母亲生孩子时的年龄,和孩子在10到11岁时所测得的认知能力之间的关系。
        In the two earlier studies, there was a negative association; maternal age 35-39 at birth was associated with poorer cognitive scores in the children, tested a decade later; the children who had been born to mothers 25-29 did better. On the other hand, for the most recent study, that association was reversed; the children born to the 35- to 39-year-olds did significantly better on the cognitive testing than the children born to the younger mothers.         前两项研究显示两者呈负相关;孕母年龄在35至39岁之间,孩子于十年后接受认知测试,分数较低;孕母年龄在25至29岁之间,孩子的分数较高。另一方面,在最近一项研究中,两者的关系出现了逆转,孕龄在35至39岁之间的母亲生下的孩子参加认知测试时的表现,大大好于较年轻的母亲生下的孩子。
        What had changed over time? The researchers found that they could explain this reversal by correcting for the social and economic characteristics of the mothers; different women, in different circumstances, were having their children later in life.        是什么随着时间的推移发生了变化?研究人员发现,通过把母亲的社会经济特征纳入考量,可以解释这种逆转;在年岁较大时生孩子的,是有着不同条件的不同女性。
        Alice Goisis, a research fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science and the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Germany, and the lead author on the study, said, “the characteristics of older mothers have changed drastically over time.” In the older studies, she said, the women who were having children into their late 30s were more likely to be women who had many children, and possibly poorer, whereas in the later study, the millennium cohort study done in 2000-2, the older mothers were more likely to be educated, and socioeconomically better off. Twenty-six percent were giving birth to their first child at ages 35-39, as opposed to 11 percent in the 1958 study.        这篇论文的第一作者、在伦敦政治经济学院(London School of Economics and Political Science)以及德国罗斯托克的马克斯·普朗克人口研究所(Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research)担任研究员的艾丽斯·寇希斯(Alice Goisis)说,“随着时间的推移,高龄母亲的特征发生了巨大变化。”她说,在早前的研究中,那些在30多岁的年纪生孩子的女性,更有可能育有多个子女且较为贫穷,而在后一项研究,也就是于2000至2002年开展的千禧世代研究中,大龄母亲更有可能受过良好教育,有着较高的社会经济地位。在35至39岁之间生育第一个子女的女性占比26%,相比之下,在1958年的研究中这一比例是11%。
        “One question I am often asked is whether these results are suggesting that women should wait to have children so they will have smarter children, and the answer is that our results are not addressing that,” Dr. Goisis said. “These women tend to be advantaged,” she said, and to take better care of themselves during pregnancy; they were less likely to smoke and more likely to breast-feed, compared to the younger mothers.        “我经常被问及,这些研究结果是否意味着女性应当推迟生育,以便拥有更聪明的孩子,我的答案是,我们的研究结果不能回答该问题,”寇希斯说。“这些女性往往生活优越”,能在孕期更好地照料自己,她说;比起较年轻的母亲,她们吸烟的可能性更小,以母乳喂养婴儿的可能性更大。
        “Nowadays children of older mothers have, on average, better outcomes because of the characteristics of women who tend to have children at older ages,” Dr. Goisis said.        “现如今的大龄母亲生下的孩子平均而言表现较好,是由倾向于在年级较大时生育的那些女性的特征决定的,”寇希斯说。
        Other researchers have looked at the question of how parenting attitudes and practices change as mothers grow older. In a study published online in December, researchers looked at how parenting practices and children’s development varied with maternal age in a group of 4,741 families in Denmark. Older mothers were less likely to be harsh with their 7- and 11-year-old children, either in terms of scolding or of physical discipline, they found, and their children were less likely to have behavioral, social and emotional problems.        其他一些研究人员关注的问题是:随着母亲年纪变大,其管教态度和方法有何变化。在一篇于去年12月发表在网上的论文中,研究人员以丹麦的4741个家庭为样本,探讨了管教方法以及孩子的成长发育状况如何因孕母年龄的差异而有所不同。他们发现,年纪较大的母亲以训斥或体罚的形式严厉对待7至14岁子女的可能性较低,其子女出现行为、社会和情感问题的可能性也较低。
        “Older mothers seem to thrive better,” said Tea Trillingsgaard, an associate professor of psychology at Aarhus University in Denmark, who was the lead author on the study. “The mothers have more psychological flexibility, more cognitive flexibility, more ability to tolerate complex emotional stimuli from the children.”        “年纪较大的母亲似乎能更好地养育子女,”该论文的第一作者、丹麦奥胡斯大学(Aarhus University)心理学助理教授迪·特里林斯戈德(Tea Trillingsgaard)说。“这些母亲有着更强的心理适应能力,更强的认知能力,更能包容来自子女的复杂情绪刺激。”
        Again, the researchers looked to see whether these differences were explained by another factor, by educational level or socioeconomic status, but even after controlling for all the demographic and socioeconomic factors they had, they still found that older maternal age itself continued to be associated with these more positive outcomes. “Emotional well-being tends to increase with age,” Dr. Trillingsgaard said. “Age in itself may be an advantage.”        研究人员又一次评估了能否用另一个因素,也就是教育程度或社会经济地位来解释这些差异,但即便是在剔除了其所掌握的所有人口统计学和社会经济因素后,他们仍然发现,较高孕龄本身仍然和这些较为积极的结果之间有关联。“情绪状态似乎会随着年龄的增长而得到改善,”特里林斯戈德博士说。“年龄本身就是一种优势。”
        We all know that fertility issues increase with older childbearing, with a large and complex fertility industry growing up in part to meet the needs of women who may have more difficulty conceiving later in life. But since having children is for most of us a huge and complicated decision, involving relationships, socioeconomic factors, geography, and the whole package of individual factors roughly summed up as life, love and the pursuit of happiness, decision making often doesn’t allow for simple planning where you target one age or another.        我们都知道,大龄生育会带来更多生育问题。在某种程度上,正是为了满足那些或许会遭遇更多困难的大龄生育女性的需求,庞大复杂的生育产业才会不断发展。但对大多数人来说,生育子女是一项重大而又复杂的决定,涉及种种关系、社会经济因素、地理影响,以及大致可以被归结为生活的所有个人因素之和,因此在决策过程中,你往往无法简单规划要在这个或那个年龄生孩子。
        The clear message is that the children of women with more support and better health habits do better cognitively, so it’s important to support mothers of any age. What you learn as you grow up, intellectually and emotionally, may help you in the complicated job of taking care of your own children. And after all, growing up and helping people grow up is what this is all about.        有一点很清楚,女性如果得到更多支持、拥有更好的健康习惯,其子女的认知能力会更强,因此给予母亲支持是很重要的,不论她们处于哪个年龄段。你在心智和情感上走向成熟的过程中学到的东西,或许有助于应对照顾你自己的子女这一复杂的工作。不管怎么说,成长以及帮助人成长,生活不就是这么回事吗?

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