Parenting and the Changing Landscape of Ageing and Reproduction

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 11:30
Location: Hörsaal BIG 1 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Virpi YLÄNNE, Cardiff University, United Kingdom
Pirjo NIKANDER, University of Tampere, Finland
The average age of first time parents is rising across Western countries (e.g. it is over 28 yrs now for mothers in the UK) and, of more importance for this study, delayed parenting is also on the rise. In England and Wales, a fifth (20%) of babies born in 2012 had mothers aged 35 and over at the time of birth and about two-thirds (65%) had fathers aged 30 and over (Office for National Statistics, 2013). This trend has implications for future family structures and our perceptions of age-related milestones, in this case relating to reproduction, parenting (and grandparenting).

This paper reports findings from an initial stage of a study examining reproductive biographies at midlife (approximately after the age of 40). The data comprise semi-structured single interviews (each lasting about an hour) with 13 heterosexual couples and 2 individuals who became parents for the first time between the ages of 38-57 yrs, either naturally or via assisted reproduction. The interviews sought to elicit accounts of parenting experiences, discursive representations of lifespan and gender identities, and perceived advantages and disadvantages of parenting at midlife. From a Discourse Analytic perspective, the analysis focuses on age-identification strategies, processes of self-presentation as an older parent, and narratives of change and development into a parenting role at midlife. The findings relate to different dimensions of age(ing) and self identity. More specifically,  the analysis yields details on strategies of membership categorisation and comparison with (former) self and others in the interviewees’ talk.