Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland mums having fewer babies and later in life, report finds

New research reveals changing attitudes to motherhood here

By Mark Edwards

Women in Northern Ireland are having fewer children and giving birth to their first baby later in life, new statistics reveal.

The average age of first-time mums here has increased from 24 to 28 since 1986, with the average age of all mums rising from 27 to 30 over the last three decades.

A report published by the NI Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) yesterday also suggests that women are having fewer children, with those aged between 15 and 44 having 1.95 children, compared to 2.44 in 1986.

The report also found:

  • Of the 24,076 births registered in 2016, just over one fifth were to mums aged 35 and over.
  • Some 43% of all births in Northern Ireland occurred outside of marriage. This is down slightly from 44% during the previous year.
  • Londonderry had the largest percentage of children born outside of marriage at 58.9%, with Belfast in second place with 58%.
  • Some 3.3% (791) of babies born here were to teenage mothers.
  • A total of 82 stillbirths were registered in 2016 - the third lowest rate on record here.
  • Life expectancy has been increasing for both men and women. Some 36% of the 15,430 people who died in 2016 were aged under 75, compared with 50% in 1986.
  • Cancer continued to be the leading cause of death here last year, accounting for 29% of all deaths.
  • Both men and women are waiting on average six years longer to get married than was the case 30 years ago.
  • The average age of first time brides and grooms is now 30 and 32 respectively.
  • A total of 8,306 marriages and 84 civil partnerships were registered last year, with August the most popular month for weddings.
  • There were 2,572 divorces and eight civil partnership dissolutions granted in 2016.
  • The population of Northern Ireland rose by 10,500 people to reach 1.862 million in the year ending June 30, 2016.
  • At 14%, net inward migration accounted for a noticeably lower percentage of population growth in Northern Ireland than was the case in the rest of the UK.

Reverend David McLaughlin, from Carryduff Free Presbyterian Church, responding to the fact 43% of children here were born outside of marriage, said: "I would believe that traditional marriage has been devalued over the years.

"From a Biblical perspective, marriage is between one woman and one man. We would encourage the stand for traditional marriage."

Reverend Dr John Stephens, general secretary of the Methodist Church in Ireland, commented: "As always, the Church commends marriage but recognises that today the family unit takes many forms.

"Whether children are born to a single mother or into a family of those in a stable relationship, we ask that the child or children are loved and cherished."

Peter Lynas, Northern Ireland director of the Evangelical Alliance, said: "The number of births outside of marriage has remained pretty steady at 43%.

"Children born and raised in two-couple households statistically do better on a range of measures including health, education and future employment prospects.

"This doesn't undermine the great work many single parents do, but reminds us that marriage is the single greatest driver of equality in our society.

"The Evangelical Alliance work with churches and partner organisations to support marriage to benefit the couples and to give children the best start in life."

Belfast Telegraph

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