Many developed nations seek to increase older people’s work participation. Work and family are linked to paid work in later life, and to each other. Few studies combined work and family histories using multichannel sequence analysis capturing status and timing of transitions in relation to work in later life. Using the MRC National Survey of Health and Development, for whom State Pension Age was age 65 (men) or 60 (women), we examined paid work at age 60–64 (and age 68–69 for men only) by work–family patterns across 35 years (ages 16–51). Women’s later work was related to the combination of timing of children and work during family formation. Women who had children later were more likely to work full-time at age 60–64 compared to the reference [characterised by continuous full-time employment, marriage, and children from their early 20s; adjusted OR 5.36 (95% CI 1.84, 15.60)]. Earlier motherhood was associated with lower likelihood of work at age 60–64 among those who did not return to work before age 51, but those who took a work break did not differ from those who worked continuously. Providing jobs which allow parents to combine work and family (e.g. part-time jobs) may encourage them to extend their working lives. In addition, men and women characterised by continuous full-time work and no children were less likely to work in their sixties. Associations were not explained by childhood health and social class, education, caregiving, housing tenure, or limiting illness. Research is needed to understand why childless people work less in later life.