Does Parental Age or Education Segregate your Playgroup?

A January 15th Washington Post article, Bringing Up Babies, And Defying the Norm, mentions some interesting statistics.

From 2000 to 2006 for parents aged 25- to 29-years-old in America:

  • 13 percent of men and 31 percent of women with four-year college degrees have had children.
  • 49 percent of men and 62 percent of women with less education have had children.


  • College-educated mothers are usually about 30-years-old when they deliver their first child.
  • The median age of first marriage for all people rose from 20 to 26 from 1950 to 2004.

A graph depicting the previously stated marriage rates from 2000 to 2006 for college educated adults and those without a 4-year college degree.
In short, the more schooling you have, the longer you wait to make babies. And across the board, people are waiting longer to wed.

Much of the article focuses on young careerists who lament the dichotomy between their parent life and their pre-child life. Young, in this sense, apparently means anyone under 30-years-old.

Two points stood out to me. When one 28-year-old mother takes her child to daycare, she feels young enough that she could be perceived to be a babysitter.

Secondly, some parents “wonder whether it’s possible to befriend older parents.”

That got me thinking about the makeup of playgroups.

In our mommy playgroup, everyone was 30 or older, and all but one was married. Everyone had at least one college degree. The group initially formed after meeting each other at a prenatal swim class, and stuck together due to mostly common interests (no TV before age 2, herbal remedies, etc.)

In our case, that’s to be expected. Who can take a noon swim class? Moms not working or moms with a good enough job where they can take the time off. And because degrees often provide higher paying jobs, I’m not surprised a bunch of nerdy women were found in that pool.

There were 20 moms in the group, and they eventually splintered into working moms vs. full-time moms, and spending more time with individuals with whom they formed deeper friendships.

A second playgroup formed when newer parents who knew existing members of the first playgroup wanted to join, but were rejected (apparently because the group was getting too big to host in peoples’ homes). That didn’t sit well with us, so we joined that group too. The second group was filled with many elementary and high school teachers.

Meanwhile, a playgroup organized by a local city Parks and Recreation department had broader community representation (and dads, yay!). A majority of parents were 20-somethings and often college students.  Nonetheless, we formed a strong friendship with a couple in their 40s when our two girls became fast friends (I’m 35 and my wife is 33). Thanks to the Washington Post, I now feel old.

There aren’t too many nannies in our neck of the woods—due to economics and culture. So again, the scope of potential friendships was influenced by the type of person who can bring their kid to a weekday playgroup.

I’m wondering…. Do playgroups usually form around a similar age or education level, or religion? Or are there other factors?


10 Responses to “Does Parental Age or Education Segregate your Playgroup?”

  1. Caro says:

    Very interesting. I have tried and failed to find a playgroup that suits me. I wonder if it has something to do with the factors mentioned here. I always thought that I was an urban parent at heart, living in a suburban area. But maybe it’s more age/education related than I thought.

    January 25th, 2008 at 12:57 pm

  2. Dooneybug says:

    I think another factor is your location. I live in a small town with a lot of blue collar jobs. My husband commutes to the big city for his professional job, we live here because cost of living is so much less, our money goes further and the commute isn’t too bad. Of the moms in the group I hang out with, at 29 years old (just turned that yesterday), I am one of the oldest moms. 90% of the other moms are approx. 2 years or more younger than me (one is 3 or 4 years older than me). One of the most educated moms, currently working on her Masters, is only 24 and her son is a year and a half old. All of the moms are college educated (I have some college under my belt but not a 4 year degree). We are all married. I’m a SAHM that does some freelance work from home. All but one of the other moms works at least PT, a couple FT. So, this study doesn’t represent the cross-section of mothers where I live but I do still see how it might represent a broader scope.

    January 25th, 2008 at 2:06 pm

  3. Jennifer says:

    When choosing a group of friends in general, people tend to break into groups of similar age, education, or religion. Why? Because of the similar interests. It would only make sense that a playgroup would be created with the same similarities. Afterall, you choose the group according to how well the adults get along with each other; yes the children benefit from being together at the same time forming their own friendships. I just did a workshop on the topic of how friendships are formed and how we naturally break up into our own groups (sometimes by choice, sometimes dictated by location or job).
    I think back to my childhood friendships. Until about 6th grade, my friends were children of my parents’ friends. At 11 years, I met a girl who is, to this day, my closest friend. Neither one of our parents ever do more than say hi to each other if they meet; they don’t not like each other, they just aren’t friends.
    So, when you choose a playgroup, you are choosing who you enjoy being with; and the benefit is that your children will be of similar ages, will most likely get along, and could potentialy become life long friends.

    January 25th, 2008 at 3:31 pm

  4. Ann says:

    As a local northcoaster…I have experienced exactly what you described. I am mother that would fall into the younger category. When my first daughter was born, I found a playgroup through a friend. The other moms had all met at a prenatal yoga class and formed this group. They all seemed to be older than be by an average of 4 years. I must of been perceived as an outsider since I was never contacted about where we were meeting next. And when I tried to organize to meet at my house, no one would call me back. I guess because I wasn’t a yoga type gal, common ground wasn’t found initially. I know that if they had taken the time to get to know me, we would of found similar interests, ie: attachment parenting, organic lifestyle, etc… I guess my point is that while initial meetings with those who are the same age/education level might be an easy way to form friendships/playgroups, you never know who you might meet if you venture outside those boundaries. I wish I had met your wife at the noon ACP prenatal class! BTW…she was my LDR nurse in October for #3. She was awesome (as I am sure you would agree) and we talked about your work and daughter. Congrats on #2!

    January 25th, 2008 at 7:06 pm

  5. JMo says:

    We found our playgroup through the city’s Mother’s Club – playgroups are set up based on children’s ages … in 9 month groupings. We participate in playgroup activities about 2-3x/month and have been members for 8 months. There 30+ members of the playgroup, but about 20 active families. (Quite large IMO)

    During this time, I’ve never noticed or even thought about the ages of the moms & dads! I assume this means that I must fall somewhere in the middle, although I’m pretty sure that at 33, I am the oldest first-time mom. Our group is almost 50-50 full-time mom vs working mom – we meet weekly on Mon evening and monthly on Sat. We’ve never talked about college and I’ve never thought about that either. Does education not matter b/c we have kids as the common denominator, or are we so homogeneous that we just assume that everyone is college educated?

    To address your question, I believe that our playgroup succeeds based on the similar age of the children and the general diversity of the group. For example, my son is 16 months and is the oldest of the group. The other first-time moms enjoy watching what my son is doing in terms of eating, talking, walking, etc. because it prepares them for what is next. I like the group b/c there are several moms who have older kids – they provide invaluable advice and ideas on everything from tantrums to nap times to date night. Essentially it’s a very candid group and everyone is helpful and supportive. It’s a fantastic resource for our family.

    January 25th, 2008 at 10:32 pm

  6. Jessica G. says:

    I had my first babe in Virginia and was referred to as an “older mom” (I was 30 at the time) in my childbirth education class. It was odd. It happened a lot. I am originally from the Pacific NW and 30 did not seem “old” to me at all. All of my friends on the West Coast were around 30 when they had their firsts as well. All are college graduates too, so that plays in to the study about waiting longer.

    I now live in New England and I think the average age of parents is much older here. I joined a Mom’s Club play-group and all of the moms were in their early 30′s and were full-time SAHM with careers on hold. It was one of the things we bonded over: “what we used to be…” There was an actual rocket scientist in our group! I was the only one holding a part-time job in my field. The group eventually fell apart and I moved, but it was nice while it lasted.

    January 26th, 2008 at 1:14 pm

  7. twinsanity says:

    Hmm, I’m part of 3 mom, 6 six toddler playgroup. I’m 35. I suspect the other moms are several years younger than me but don’t really know. I have no idea what they did before having kids or if we have anything in common besides having twins close to the same age. We don’t have much time to chat during our playgroups. Maybe just having twins is enough of a bond?

    January 28th, 2008 at 1:13 pm

  8. wwbd says:

    Interesting post. I commented often when I first became a mother about the age issue. Specifically I felt really young to be a first time mother at 28. It surprised me. I thought that there would likely be many other moms the same age or younger. Both my husband and I have graduate degrees (JD and PhD) and I have noticed the same trend with our friends from school. Not many have children yet.

    I joined a MOMS Club playgroup early on and found out I was the youngest member, although now there is one mom who is a few months younger than me. We are all college educated and range in age from 30-46 or so. I never noticed that there are any splits in our group due to age or education, but that people whose personalities and interests mesh better tend to spend more time together outside of organized weekly playgroups.

    January 29th, 2008 at 2:06 pm

  9. JMo says:

    Update on our playgroup stats:
    - We have 35 members and the majority are working full or part time.
    - At 33, I am in the middle in terms of age, but I am also in the middle for the age of first-time moms. Turns out the oldest first-time mom is 38, and there are a lot of women who fall b/t 38-33.

    February 28th, 2008 at 9:56 pm

  10. Crimson Wife says:

    My oldest was born when I was 25, and I had a hard time finding a playgroup in which I felt comfortable.

    First, I went to the one in the affluent suburb in which I was living at the time. I was the youngest one there by more than a decade. Most of the moms were closer to my own mom’s age (she was 48) than mine.

    Then I tried a “young moms” support group and again I felt out of place. I was the only one there who was married, a college graduate, and working in a white-collar professional job.

    I just had a hard time relating to the moms in both groups.

    July 28th, 2008 at 8:38 pm