Children born to older fathers appear to be at higher risk for a variety of psychiatric problems and academic difficulties compared with children born to younger fathers, according to a study by Brian M. D’Onofrio, Ph.D., of Indiana University, Bloomington, and colleagues.
Previous research suggests advancing paternal age (APA) at childbearing is associated with genetic mutations during the development of sperm, which may cause an increased risk of child psychiatric, intellectual and academic problems, according to the study background.
The authors studied people born in Sweden from 1973 to 2001 and estimated the risk of psychiatric problems (autism, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, psychosis, bipolar disorder, suicide attempt and substance abuse) and academic trouble (failing grades and low educational attainment of 10 years of less in school) using siblings, cousins and first-born cousins.
Siblings born to fathers 45 years and older were at higher risk for autism, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, psychosis, bipolar disorder, suicide attempts, substance abuse, failing a grade and low educational attainment compared with siblings born to fathers 20 to 24 years old, the authors found.
“The findings suggest that APA 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 APA would inform future basic neuroscience research, medical practice and personal decision-making about childbearing,” the authors conclude.
(JAMA Psychiatry. Published online February 26, 2014. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.4525.