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Gender differences in the transition to early parenthood


Data gathered over the course of a 25-year longitudinal study of 1,055 young people was used to examine gender differences in the onset of early parenthood and the developmental processes that place males and females at risk of becoming a young parent. Results revealed clear gender differences in the timing of early parenthood, with females being twice as likely as males to become a parent between the ages of 16 and 25 years. In contrast, the risk factors and life course processes that placed males and females at risk of an early transition to parenthood were very similar. Two exceptions were a gender-specific effect for maternal age and exposure to parental change, suggesting that having been raised by a younger mother and having experienced parental changes in your family of origin increased risks of early parenthood for females but not males. These findings contribute to our understanding of the effects of gender on life course development.This research was funded by grants from the Health Research Council of New Zealand, the National Child Health Research Foundation, the Canterbury Medical Research Foundation and the New Zealand Lottery Grants Board.

Corresponding author
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Lianne Woodward, Child Development Research Group, Department of Psychology, University of Canterbury, Private Bag 4800, Christchurch, New Zealand; E-mail:
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Development and Psychopathology
  • ISSN: 0954-5794
  • EISSN: 1469-2198
  • URL: /core/journals/development-and-psychopathology
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