Fathers under 25 or over 51 face higher risk of having babies with autism – study
The research, conducted by the Seaver Autism Center for Research and Treatment at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, studied 15,000 UK-based twins from ages four to 16, looking at their social skills in connection with their father’s age at birth.
Issues like conduct and peer problems, hyperactivity, and emotionality were taken into account.
It turns out that “social skills are a key domain affected by paternal age,” and they changed, depending on the father’s age, being affected in the “offspring of both older as well as very young fathers,” according to Magdalena Janecka, a fellow at the Seaver Autism Center, according to the press release.
The risks include severe cases of clinical conditions like autism. However, the situation could be “much more subtle” than that, researchers suggest.
The study discovered that the children of very young (below 25) or older (more than 51) fathers started out very well, displaying more pro-social behaviors in their early development. But as they got older, they slowed down and began falling behind their adolescent peers, born to middle-aged fathers.
The research indicates that the main factor in these dynamics remains genetics, rather than any external conditions. Moreover, the genetic mechanisms could be varying, depending on the father’s age, and regardless of that of the mother.
“Children born to very young or older fathers may find social situations more challenging, even if they do not meet the diagnostic criteria for autism. Further, increased importance of genetic factors observed in the offspring in older, but not very young fathers, suggests that there could be different mechanisms behind the effects at these two extremes of paternal age,” Janecka said.
What could the study contribute to in the future? Scientists say it could help them learn more about the mechanisms behind autism and schizophrenia, and “alterations in brain maturation” in general.