Age at First Birth and Family Size: Evidence from a Longitudinal Study

This paper examines the correlates of the relationship of age at first birth to completed parity, using data from a fifteen-year longitudinal study. Particular emphasis is given to measures of orientation toward family roles which have been singled out in previous studies as a likely causal factor not yet examined. Women who had an early first birth went on to have larger families than women who postponed childbearing longer. Demographic factors, including premarital pregnancies, unwanted births, and fecundity differentials, did not appear to account for the observed relationship. The hypothesis that early socialization toward traditional female roles might account for the higher fertility of women who began childbearing early was not confirmed. Women with a first birth at a young age were not characterized by more traditional sex-role behavior or attitudes nor did they express higher initial fertility preferences. They did more often increase their fertility preferences over the inter-survey period.