Childbearing Biographies and Midlife Women’s Health

Academic Article


  • Objectives: We introduce a “childbearing biography” approach to show how multiple childbearing characteristics cluster in ways significant for midlife health. Methods: We analyze the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 (NLSY79; N = 3992) using mixed-mode Latent Class Analysis with eight childbearing variables (e.g., age at first birth, parity, birth spacing, and mistimed births) to identify how childbearing biographies are associated with midlife health, adjusting for key covariates—including socioeconomic status (SES) and relationship history. Results: We identify six childbearing biographies: (1) early compressed, (2) staggered, (3) extended high parity, (4) later, (5) married planned, and (6) childfree. Childbearing biographies are strongly associated with physical health but not mental health, with differences primarily explained by SES. Discussion: Different childbearing biographies are related to physical health inequalities above what is demonstrated by the typical use of one or two childbearing measures, providing a new perspective into the growing health gap among aging midlife women.
  • Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Thomeer MB; Reczek R; Ross C
  • Start Page

  • 870
  • End Page

  • 882
  • Volume

  • 34
  • Issue

  • 6-8