Tuesday, December 23, 2008

An older dad can handicap a son's social development

23 December 2008
An older dad can handicap a son's social development

Researchers from Tel Aviv University (TAU) say they've found that older dads are more likely to have boys with autism and lower IQs. And more recently, they found that the older a father's age, the greater the chance that his son will display poor social abilities as a teen. TAU's Dr. Mark Weiser and his team of researchers are now studying what causes this phenomenon.

"There is a growing body of data showing that an advanced age of parents puts their kids at risk for various illnesses," says Dr. Weiser. "Some illnesses, such as schizophrenia, appear to be more common the older parents get."

To explore this question, Dr. Weiser looked at data collected by the Israeli army from more than 450,000 male teens, aged 16 and 17. The teens were asked these questions: How many good friends do you have? Do you have a girlfriend? Do you generally prefer to be with or without a group of friends? How often do you go out on Friday evenings? Do you tend to be at the center of a party?

Controlling for the variables of IQ, mother's age, socioeconomic status and birth order, the researchers found that the prevalence of poor social functioning increased by 50 percent in boys with fathers 45 years old and up.

"It could be that men with poorer social skills get married later in life, and therefore transmit this characteristic to their boys. But our studies attempted to control for this variable by looking at brothers from the same father," Dr. Weiser explains.

He also suggests that older men shouldn't change their minds about having children since the statistical risk is relatively minor. "The effects of a father's age on the health of his son are quite small, and many of the most dramatic effects in this study are driven by dads in their 50s," he concluded.

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Source: Tel Aviv University

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