Kids of Older Fathers at Higher Psychological Risk

Autism and ADHD risk may be greater for children with older fathers

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Waiting to have children is not uncommon, but there might be some consequences for the children if parents wait too long.

Researchers recently found that the children of older fathers were more likely to be diagnosed with autism, ADHD, bipolar disorders and other psychiatric and academic issues than children born to fathers in their 20s.

This study showed that along with a greater risk of psychological disorders, children of older fathers also had a greater chance of dropping out of school.

"Discuss concerns about parenting with a professional."

This study was led by Brian M. D’Onofrio, PhD, of the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Indiana University in Bloomington.

The research team studied people born in Sweden between 1973 and 2001 to determine the risk of psychiatric problems and academic trouble.

The researchers considered autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), psychosis, bipolar disorder, suicide attempt and substance abuse when determining psychiatric problems.

The team used failing grades and dropping out of school with 10 years or less in school as a sign of academic issues.

The study looked at siblings, cousins and first-born cousins to make comparisons among children born to fathers of different ages within the same close family.

The researchers found that children born to fathers over 45 years of age had a significantly increased risk of psychiatric and academic problems compared to the children of fathers between the ages of 20 and 24.

“The findings suggest that [advancing paternal age] represents a risk of numerous public health and societal problems. Regardless of whether these results should lead to policy changes, clarification of the associations with [advancing paternal age] would inform future basic neuroscience research, medical practice and personal decision-making about childbearing,” the authors conclude.

The data showed the increased risks for children with fathers over 45 compared to those with fathers between 20 and 24 include a 3.5 times greater risk of autism, a 13 times greater risk of ADHD and 1.7 times greater risk of dropping out of school before the end of 10th grade.

Dr. D'Onofrio and colleagues noted that this study's results will allow potential parents to make a more informed decision about childbearing.

The study was limited by it use of sibling comparison, which could include unreliable data.

This study was published February 26 in JAMA Psychiatry.

This study was funded by a grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the Swedish Research Council and the Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research.

The authors made no disclosures.

Review Date: 
February 25, 2014
Last Updated:
March 1, 2014