which was already almost the widest, is getting wider, while in other regions it is remaining about the same.
In all regions, at least a quarter of women remain childless until age 24, and in some regions until several years beyond age 24. In Africa and Asia, this occurred for the first time among the youngest cohort, born in the 1970s. In the Middle East, 50 percent of women are still childless at age 24.
The overwhelming majority of births occur within marriage. Among those who give birth after marriage, the length of time between marriage and motherhood is declining everywhere.
Patterns of premarital childbearing vary substantially across regions. In most regions, less than 5 percent of all women have had a child before marriage and before age 20. However, reported rates in sub-Saharan Africa exceed 10 percent in 11 countries and in many South American countries range from 5 to 10 percent. The implications of premarital childbearing for the parents vary substantially across societies.
Some countries have seen recent small increases in rates of premarital childbearing. As a result the percentage of births occurring to young women that are premarital has been rising, and these increases have been most notable in Eastern and Southern Africa and South America.
Gaps in research on first-time parenthood include all aspects of fatherhood, the determinants of and impacts of early parenthood, the implications of recent global changes on transitions to first-time parenthood, and the consequences of early parenthood. Basic research is needed on the timing of fatherhood and on the attitudes of young men regarding pregnancy and fatherhood. Although there is plentiful evidence that early childbearing is correlated with negative outcomes, rigorous research confirming a causal role for age at birth in producing these outcomes does not exist. Major global changes, such as rises in enrollment rates during late adolescence, rising rates of labor force participation among young women, and rising HIV/AIDS prevalence among young women in Africa are likely to have important implications for the transition to parenthood, but little is currently known about their implications.
Systematic evaluations of policies and programs directed at the transition to first parenthood are almost nonexistent. The research findings sum-