Muskingum University Associate Professor of Psychology Dinah Meyer recently published an article, “Psychosocial needs of first-time mothers over 40,” in the Journal of Women & Aging. The study focuses on women who gave birth to their first child at age 40 or later, an understudied group.
Dr. Meyer believes this study can provide insight to professionals and non-academics alike.
“My hope is that medical and psychological professionals can give credence to the evidence that their experience is different from that of their younger peers,” said Dr. Meyer. “I also hope to see a shift in the public perception of older parents from one that views them as an anomaly to be concerned about to one that respects the stability, wisdom and resources that they typically can provide to their child.”
Dr. Meyer began her research on this topic six years ago, first conducting a small pilot study before embarking on this published study. According to Dr. Meyer, when in search of scientific literature, she wasn’t able to find as much information on mothers over the age of 40 compared to the amount of information on mothers in their 20s and 30s.
In Dr. Meyer’s study, she had 147 women participants in total. These women gave birth to their first child at age 40 or later. Participants were solicited through online forums, websites, Facebook groups and Meetup groups dedicated to older motherhood.
The main findings from Dr. Meyer’s research include:
- Dr. Meyer found that twenty-five percent of participants reported their pregnancies were unplanned. Of those, only seventeen percent reported that they were using contraception at the time of their child’s conception. More than half of those women reported that they did not use contraception because they believed they could not get pregnant (due to age and infertility history).
- There were thirteen percent of the mothers in the study diagnosed at some point with postpartum depression.
- Regardless of pregnancy intention, the new mothers reported that they felt a major strength of later in life motherhood was having emotional and financial stability to provide for their child. Mothers felt intense appreciation and gratitude for the opportunity to be a parent.
- The older first-time mothers in this study listed a number of challenges: feeling a lack of support from others, perhaps because others saw them as more mature and “capable”, thus offering less support and assistance. For the thirty-four percent of mothers who left full-time jobs to become stay at home mothers after the birth of their child, a kind of “identity crisis” ensued, as they struggled to redefine themselves in meaningful ways after many years of personal and career efficacy.
- Dr. Meyer found that twenty-five percent of the new mothers in this study reported frequent feelings of loneliness and isolation, feeling disconnected from their younger peer mothers and longing for relationships with other older mothers.
A licensed psychologist, Dr. Meyer’s primary interest and expertise are in the treatment of women and assisting them in coping with life's challenges, including relationships and parenting. She also has previous research in the area of eating disorders.
Dr. Meyer has been a member of the Muskingum University faculty since 1999. She received her bachelor's degree from Ohio Dominican College and her master’s and doctoral degrees from The Ohio State University.