How are the Kids? Socio-economic gradients in the cognitive development of ART children

Anna Barbuscia, Oxford University and Nuffield College
Melinda Mills, University of Oxford

The wellbeing of children born after Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) has been highly debated in the last years, with mixed evidence on the long-term effects. Although evidence exists that ART can be linked to higher risks of adverse health outcomes at birth, ART children sometimes even show a better cognitive development compared to naturally conceived children. Such findings might seem counterintuitive, with different factors likely to play a role in how ART children develop, with different and possibly contrasting effects. Using data from the first 5 waves of the UK Millennium Cohort Study, this paper compares the verbal cognitive development (as measured by the British Ability Scale) of children born through ART and “naturally conceived” children up to the age of 11. Women undertaking ART represent a selected part of the population, with ART mothers being on average older, better educated, more likely to be in employment and married compared to non-ART mothers. Growth curve models show that ART children seem to perform better compared to the average, but the effect almost disappears when controls for parental background are added. Furthermore, differences in cognitive abilities between the two groups of children decrease with age, and disappear by the age of 11.

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Presented in Session 117: Child development