Saturday, March 29, 2008

As a Woman: the best time for having the first baby is...

Child bearing is one of the most important functions of being a woman. As women are becoming more and more career centred, and statistically women are having children later and later, many of us are wondering:

"What is the best time for me to have a child?"

Here, "best" refers to a trade off between emotional and physical health problems associated with having a child too late and the impact on career for having a child too early.

The answer? Mathematical models come to the rescue. A model developed by Ralph L. Keeney and Dinah A. Vernik from the Faqua School of Business in Duke University attempts to use decision analysis, one of the many operations research techniques out there, to help women decide the optimal time of bearing their first child.
In the case of a woman who does not feel that motherhood will be a significant barrier to her pursuit of a particular milestone, the model suggests attempting to conceive a first child at a younger age. Specifically, the model can calculate for any specific situation the level of anticipated negative career impact at which an individual woman may wish to postpone having a child.

The example of a 20-year-old college student illustrates the situation when a woman claims she does not want to have a child until she reaches a certain age, say 35 years old. The model suggests that, especially in cases where both family life and career are important to the woman, having a child much earlier may be a better long-term solution than waiting until she is more established in her career.

For more information on the model, please visit their website:

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