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The Timing and Duration of Women's Life Course Events: A Study of Mothers With at Least Two Children


  • Karen M. Kobayashi
  • Anne Martin-Matthews
  • Carolyn J. Rosenthal
  • Sarah Matthews


This study examines the incidence and duration of women's life course events, specifically childbearing, by generational age structure within the family, birth cohort, educational status, and place of birth. Data from the 1995 General Social Survey (GSS) of Canada is used to estimate the incidence and socio-demographic correlates of age-structured families-- age-condensed, normative, and age-gapped according to the mother's age at the birth of her first child. The results indicate that less than 10% of women with at least two children (N = 1,800) experience entrance into motherhood as a late life course event (e.g., at 30 years of age or older) as opposed to an early or "on-time" transition. Further, the mean birth interval is longer and family size is larger for age-condensed mothers versus normative and age- gapped mothers. Cohort differences regarding the incidence and duration of family life course events are also notable: older cohorts of women (1915-1930 and 1931-1946) have longer birth intervals and larger families than do women in younger cohorts (1946-1960 and 1961-1976). For level of educational attainment, women with less education marry at younger ages and have their first child at younger ages than their more educated counterparts. Finally, Canadian-born women marry and have their first child at younger ages compared to foreign-born women. Findings are discussed in the context of the literature on "age deadlines" and women's family life course events.

Suggested Citation

  • Karen M. Kobayashi & Anne Martin-Matthews & Carolyn J. Rosenthal & Sarah Matthews, 2001. "The Timing and Duration of Women's Life Course Events: A Study of Mothers With at Least Two Children," Social and Economic Dimensions of an Aging Population Research Papers 55, McMaster University.
  • Handle: RePEc:mcm:sedapp:55

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    life course events; cohort; GSS;

    JEL classification:

    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth

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