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February 27th, 2014
02:10 PM ET

Study: Children of older fathers face higher risk of psychiatric disorders

Do men have a biological clock of sorts? A large new study suggests they may.

Compared to younger fathers, older fathers' children were found to be significantly more at risk for a host of psychiatric disorders, according to the study, published Wednesday in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.

For example, the children of fathers ages 45 and over were three times more likely to have an autism spectrum disorder, 13 times more likely to have ADHD, and 25 times more likely to have bipolar disorder than the children of fathers aged 20 to 24.

For the study, researchers analyzed data from 2.6 million children born in Sweden between 1973 and 2001, making it one of the largest and most comprehensive studies on the effects of paternal age.

"The working hypothesis is that as men get older and their sperm continue to replicate, that there are more chances of having mutations in the base pairs of the DNA," says Brian D'Onofrio, lead study author and associate professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Indiana University.

"Those genetic mutations are associated with psychiatric problems."

The age-related effects were gradual, researchers found; a 35-year-old man's child had greater risks than the child of a 25-year-old man.

A 2012 study  done by researchers in Iceland indicated that as many as 20% to 30% of cases of autism and schizophrenia may be linked to fathers' advanced age. Unlike findings on conditions such as Down syndrome, the Iceland study found the mother's age made no difference. For that study, researchers looked at genomes of 78 sets of parents and offspring. 

While most studies on this subject simply compare children born to young fathers with those of older fathers, D'Onofrio calls that method "comparing apples and oranges, because we know that young fathers differ on many things compared to older fathers."

Instead, D'Onofrio and his colleagues compared siblings; looking at the outcomes when the same man has a child in his younger years and then again later in life.

"That enabled us to get a better understanding of what's truly due to the advancing father's age at childbearing," says D'Onofrio.


soundoff (220 Responses)
  1. carlossutter

    I would have liked to hear or have listed out whether other factors were counted out for sure and didn't have an influence in the results, like children resenting (be embarrassed) or reacted differently because their father were much older than their friends' fathers. Or maybe the older fathers, being perhaps much wiser in general, would have raised the children accordingly and whether this change may have inadvertently have more negative mental issues somehow. Otherwise it seems this is strictly due to sperm's biology.

    February 27, 2014 at 20:35 | Report abuse | Reply
    • J

      Autism is not caused by parenting. At all.

      February 27, 2014 at 21:10 | Report abuse |
    • mikeyz

      Unlikely. The most prevalent disorder among the sample set is autism. Autism usually manifests between the ages of six months and two years, well before any social behaviors from either parent start to matter.

      I'm pushing fifty, and my daughter is seven. In her cohort, a K-5 magnet school of sorts, it's rare to find a dad under the age of forty, even for entering kinders. I know of several who are well over fifty. The kids don't seem to notice. If she gets to the point that she resents me for being older, at least she'll be in good company.

      February 27, 2014 at 21:18 | Report abuse |
    • Ben

      It's certainly possible that that confounds the results somehow. One way to control for it would be to see if adopted children show the same pattern. Separated twin studies would be even better, but it's always hard to get big sample numbers for those.

      As for people going around saying that autism can't be caused by parenting styles, well, if you know what does and doesn't cause autism, by all means write a peer reviewed paper on it and share it with the world.

      February 27, 2014 at 21:35 | Report abuse |
    • tom

      Bull crap,your science can take a flying leap.

      February 27, 2014 at 21:37 | Report abuse |
    • Budgie Girl

      The onset of austistic behavior is generally noted by age 3... I don't think 3 year olds have that kind of resentment or awareness of what others think of dad...

      February 27, 2014 at 21:40 | Report abuse |
  2. Solomon Walker

    Yes, and three generations of imbeciles is enough.

    February 27, 2014 at 20:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. fooloof

    At first, I thought it said that the FATHERS had a greater risk of psychiatric disorders. I was gonna say that my wife would agree heartily!!

    February 27, 2014 at 20:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • biggerdawg

      Get rid of her, feel good about yourself for a change.

      February 27, 2014 at 21:07 | Report abuse |
  4. jayhawkeditor

    Was age of mothers also factored in?

    February 27, 2014 at 20:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • jeanht

      "Unlike findings on conditions such as Down syndrome, the Iceland study found the mother's age made no difference."
      It helps to read the article.

      February 27, 2014 at 21:01 | Report abuse |
    • jorline

      Silly rabbit...It's always the mans fault.

      February 27, 2014 at 21:06 | Report abuse |
    • gregmarks

      I had the same thought. According to the article they compared siblings. If they were full siblings then the mothers were also older by the same number of years. I don't see how they would draw the conclusion that this was (solely) due to the father's age. I must be missing something.

      February 27, 2014 at 21:08 | Report abuse |
    • J

      Well, in most cases where a dad has a baby between 20-25 and then after 45, there are two moms. And I'm guessing the second one is younger than the first. But maybe that is just my bias.

      February 27, 2014 at 21:11 | Report abuse |
    • robert

      A woman carries the same eggs throughout her life while the man reproduces sperm over and over again increasing the chances of mutations. Something i remember back in med school but i might be wrong.

      February 27, 2014 at 21:16 | Report abuse |
    • JAG

      So many are ignorant.
      Yes, a woman can bring difficulties in pregnancy due to lifestyle/age via gestation.
      But when it comes to sperm/egg, both parties bring blessings and problems to the table.
      I'm pleased to see that some research on the other half of the equation is being done.
      Fellas. You want healthy kids? You are the other 50%. Can't have it both ways. Clean up.

      February 27, 2014 at 22:07 | Report abuse |
    • JAG

      The mother may affect gestation but only half of biology.
      I find this research refreshing.
      Why do we always ignore the male half? For better or worse.

      February 27, 2014 at 22:11 | Report abuse |
  5. john martin

    Elton johns boy is going to be a total train wreck then !

    February 27, 2014 at 20:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. michael ponder

    And what about the risk of being beaten to death or other ways physically, emotionally or psychologically-abused? Younger dads are by far the perps of heinous crimes against their own children. What about balancing out your article with some real hard dad-a, ahem, data?!

    February 27, 2014 at 20:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Young Father

      Site you sources. We have had three molestation cases in our city in the last month and all the perps were over 60 years of age. Care to site a study that shows that young men are so terrible, or are you just pulling facts out of your ass?

      February 27, 2014 at 21:14 | Report abuse |
  7. Johnny

    Someone please kill the "soundoff" forums. PLEASE

    February 27, 2014 at 21:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. nuclear mike

    So getting married & knocked up at 15 ain;t so bad afterall....

    February 27, 2014 at 21:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Rob

    What the study shows is that younger siblings have more psychiatric disorders, because they are comparing the younger
    children to the older children.

    February 27, 2014 at 21:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Erik

      Good point. thanks I almost 40 I needed some reassurance on that one.

      February 27, 2014 at 21:30 | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      I should have added: I have two younger siblings, so I don't need a study to tell me they
      are nuttier than me.

      February 27, 2014 at 21:48 | Report abuse |
  10. MM

    Maybe because older Dad's have less patience....like me

    February 27, 2014 at 21:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. cnnjoke@web30.com

    CNN's comment section is a public dissent stifling joke compared to what web 3.0 normally offers. Link with any account you have? Sure. Disqus just removed downvotes basically for all intents and purposes so why not have a really 1990s comment section like this for controversial articles? WORKS FOR ME!

    February 27, 2014 at 21:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Tiger

    TOTAL PROPAGANDA. Older parents pass on better genetics than younger ones. Durning your lifetime, what you learn is imprinted and evolves your genetics, providing more to the kids of older parents. Look at those around you. This is some new-medical-association bs. (Have you ever heard of anyone being a memeber of the American Medical Association?? Probably another Israeli or corporate sponsored group peddling their own agendas – like The America Way, and lots of other groups. )

    February 27, 2014 at 21:03 | Report abuse | Reply
    • J

      Please telling me you are kidding. Please. JAMA is one of the most respected medical journals around. Please tell me you are kidding. And experience is not imprinted on genetics. Also, the world is not flat. Wow.

      February 27, 2014 at 21:08 | Report abuse |
    • robert

      You need to flush yourself from the net

      February 27, 2014 at 21:13 | Report abuse |
    • Amar

      New Business avenue ... for medical industry.

      Another industry will come that when you store the sperm it looses something so new industry to keep it active and fresh (something which involves more money...

      February 27, 2014 at 21:25 | Report abuse |
    • N

      Uh, and J, that very JAMA article stated that increased paternity actually decreased morbidity from OTHER causes, which of course, aren't listed by this CNN article. The OP wasn't wrong at all.

      Because it's really really really really important to push the idea that men have a biological clock. So women don't feel bad.

      February 27, 2014 at 21:39 | Report abuse |
    • goo6er

      Please loosen the chin strap on your tinfoil hat.

      February 27, 2014 at 21:39 | Report abuse |
    • Paul

      I wonder if they factored in alcohol and drug intake for the males during the study.
      More drugs and alcohol before you have kids at 38 = more chance of problems?

      February 27, 2014 at 21:41 | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      J- Respected journals publish crap all the time, to get attention, their publication in the news to increase sales
      and society memberships. There was one in Science last november about the number of planets with habitable
      stars, a complete approximation of a guess of a cherry-pick, which was quickly refuted in Nature. Wasn't
      the JAMA the one that published the nonsense that women have a 1 in 3000 chance of breast cancer and therefore
      everyone has to be screened (about 20 years ago?). At the time it was obviously flawed, because that number
      was for your total lifetime, and it was only that high because the chance of 80 year olds having breast cancer was
      huge. Don't believe everything you read at CNN OR in a journal!

      February 27, 2014 at 21:53 | Report abuse |
    • Will S

      It isn't "JAMA". It is "JAMA Psychiatry". Not the same journal. Same network/publisher, but not the same caliber as the "real" JAMA; the impact factor of JAMA-Psych is 1/3 that of JAMAs.

      February 27, 2014 at 22:01 | Report abuse |
  13. sandiegowatch

    Sounds like more like anecdotal observations being passed as scientific evidence.

    or.....

    Conditioning people to make decisions that help control population.

    February 27, 2014 at 21:05 | Report abuse | Reply
    • AndyS

      I agree most of these studies give results for political and social reasons, if a man is in good health and condition he can have a great baby at 45,

      February 27, 2014 at 21:18 | Report abuse |
  14. person

    It makes sense. A woman's body too is more likely to create errors in reproduction as she ages. Ideally people should have kids in their 20's or early 30's but not after.

    February 27, 2014 at 21:08 | Report abuse | Reply
    • robert

      Totally agree

      February 27, 2014 at 21:18 | Report abuse |
  15. mistvall

    I was born when my dad was 39 and I'm totes crazy

    February 27, 2014 at 21:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Rosa

    How do they control for the fact that men over 45 are just always grumpy. It may have nothing to with genetics. They need to test the biological children of young men that were adopted or raised by old grumpy men and see what happens.

    February 27, 2014 at 21:10 | Report abuse | Reply
    • J

      Having a grumpy dad doesn't make you autistic. Autism isn't caused by bad parenting.

      February 27, 2014 at 21:13 | Report abuse |
    • N

      J there are quite a few environmental causes - no one exactly knows what causes autism.

      February 27, 2014 at 21:41 | Report abuse |
    • Ted

      Maybe they are grumpy because they have older wives.

      February 28, 2014 at 04:56 | Report abuse |
  17. Kathy, AZ

    --This explains my last 3 siblings.----–

    February 27, 2014 at 21:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. mtndewdew

    "Instead, D'Onofrio and his colleagues compared siblings; looking at the outcomes when the same man has a child in his younger years and then again later in life."

    The most noticeable psychiatric illnesses are ADHD and bipolar disorder, which are probably the 2 most misdiagnosed disorders – largely stemming from false positives due to different personality traits. It is largely possible that younger siblings from older parents receive less attention, which results in these disorders.

    February 27, 2014 at 21:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. AndyS

    This one size fits all is fairly limited. I think the health of the mans sperm is directly related to the health of the man. Most younger men are in better health and shape than older men but certainly not all. An overweight 25 year old drug user is going to have lower quality sperm than a 45 year old man in great shape and condition, just use common sense, these studies come out about everything every year then they change every year.

    February 27, 2014 at 21:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. bad2worse

    Well, that explains a lot.

    My kids are nuts!

    I should have knocked up a bunch of women when I was younger and irresponsible.

    That would have reaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaally worked out well...

    February 27, 2014 at 21:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. maria

    Love is kind, Love is patient, I think if we ask our children what is more important , they will agree all we need are loving parents . kids are a gift at any age.

    February 27, 2014 at 21:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. yeah

    that is terrible! my dad was 73 when I was born and 77 when little bro born. can I claim disability!

    February 27, 2014 at 21:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Paul

    This is a hell of a headline to read on my 40th birthday. Thanks CNN!

    February 27, 2014 at 21:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • AndyS

      They hate you dude, they want to bring in young immigrants to replace you get it,

      February 27, 2014 at 21:26 | Report abuse |
  24. Relictus

    This article is on one of those spurious studies that pop out from time to time. Still, a mother's age is a well-known serious factor for a lot of birth defects. This is yet one more reason why I am so bitter about not finding love – a couple more years, and the women in my generation will simply be too old to bear children without undue risks.

    "You'll find someone someday" – not only a lie, but they didn't mention a time limit.

    February 27, 2014 at 21:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Ella Sidnal

    A Russian flag flies over the Ukraine Parliament while a Russian spy ship with 35mm guns and anti-aircraft missiles slips into a Cuban bay unannounced and this story about aging baby daddies is what CNN chooses to go with with as a headliner.

    February 27, 2014 at 21:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Curious About This

    I have not read the full study, but how do the researchers control for the fact that younger siblings are likely to get less parental attention? This seems particularly problematic for the sibling analysis. Depending on whether this was controlled for, the results could have very different implications:

    1) Try to have children when you are younger.

    2) Devote more time and resources to your younger children.

    February 27, 2014 at 21:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. John Weber

    What a crock of dodo!!!! Always some doctor or expert out there saying this or that is going to happen, I think that is the problem with our world today, life is to short....just live the best you can and stuff will fall in place.... the experts think too much and 75% of the time they are dead wrong and get people all worked up over nothing.

    February 27, 2014 at 21:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Alan Fisher

    If you are and older Father and have just started a new family. The good news is when that child reaches the teen years you will be in the senility years and will not have to put up with the teenage crap. Good Luck..

    February 27, 2014 at 21:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Edge

    Instead, D'Onofrio and his colleagues compared siblings; looking at the outcomes when the same man has a child in his younger years and then again later in life.

    "That enabled us to get a better understanding of what's truly due to the advancing father's age at childbearing," says D'Onofrio.

    UMMMM... That means the MOTHER is also older so how are they able to scientifically rule that it's the father's mutated sperm and not the mother's shriveled egg?

    February 27, 2014 at 21:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. shortyellowbus

    In other news the sun rises in the east, the shortest distance between 2 points is a straight line and moss grows on the north side of trees.....tell us what we do not already know!

    February 27, 2014 at 21:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Sir Lord

    Even thought the following statement is scientifically correct at any sperm-producing age (12/13/14-death), "their sperm continue to replicate, that there are more chances of having mutations in the base pairs of the DNA," I, respectfully, disagree, especially when my own father (among many other fathers on the planet) had his five kids over the age of 48 with no physical nor mental handicaps!!

    February 27, 2014 at 21:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • iCloudius

      Oh yes, because one person's anecdote completely disproves a multi-million-participant study. Nice understanding of basic statistics there, buddy–maybe your dad should've had you a few decades earlier.

      February 27, 2014 at 21:49 | Report abuse |
  32. Joe Mandeville

    "D'Onofrio and his colleagues compared siblings; looking at the outcomes when the same man has a child in his younger years and then again later in life."

    An obvious question arises from the study comparison: did they control for the higher rate of diagnosis that seems to have occurred versus time for all subjects in the general population? Bipolar disorder and ADHD are diagnosed FAR more often now than they were 30 years ago, and that increase has nothing to do with aging fathers. However, the study comparison necessarily will be subjected to this bias. It's such an obvious question that it would be nice if the article addressed this issue.

    February 27, 2014 at 21:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. PaPilot

    Any man who would alllow himself to reproduce in this day and age is a glutton for punishment, especially in our new gynocentric society where women have all the legal power in family court.

    I got snipped as soon as I graduated college and had insurance. No marriage or kids for me. Forget that.

    February 27, 2014 at 21:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. leo

    well ofcourse the kids are gonna be crazy with an older dad..It also means you have an older mom...have you been around a older mom..there are enough to drive anyone crazy

    February 27, 2014 at 21:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Harald

    Obviously, the father only contributes half of the genetic material. So why must the higher risk for psychiatric disorders be related to the sperm and not to the egg or both ?
    Another issue is that if mutations are the cause then why do they only cause a higher risk for psychiatric disorders and not any kind of disorder ? Mutations are random changes in the genetic material, meaning that results are unpredictable and not likely limited to psychiatric issues.
    Either the study was poorly done or CNN did a poor job in understanding/communicating the essence of the study.

    February 27, 2014 at 21:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Dave

    BS... I know a bunch of guys that were mid 40s when they had their kids and they aren't just healthy, they are high achievers.... CNN loves to push their global agenda of eugenics.

    February 27, 2014 at 21:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. runner

    This is propaganda to encourage men to marry women. These days men choose to stay single more than ever.

    February 27, 2014 at 21:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. N

    "In the study population, advancing paternal age was associated with increased risk of some psychiatric disorders (eg, autism, psychosis, and bipolar disorders) but decreased risk of the other indexes of morbidity."

    So in the actual study population, advanced age in fathers was shown to ALSO DECREASE risk of other morbidities? What were they?

    Oh wait, THAT's not relevant, huh?

    Ah feminist CNN.

    February 27, 2014 at 21:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Bonjovs

    This is balooney

    February 27, 2014 at 21:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. legba289

    While this study may accurately reflect what occurs naturally, those that are faithful in God may wish to
    remember that Abraham and Sarah had their promised son- Issac, born unto them, full of health, when they
    were well into their advanced age.

    There's been no recorded history of Issac suffering from any congenital defects or illnesses.

    February 27, 2014 at 21:35 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mary

      Back then aged was 40. The Bible is hardly a book of medical history.

      February 27, 2014 at 21:40 | Report abuse |
    • iCloudius

      Yeah, the book that talks about the talking snake and the guy walking on water is absolutely a good reference for medical history.

      February 27, 2014 at 21:52 | Report abuse |
  41. Jetranger

    Sounds like another "Bogus" Study, no doubt funded by Big Pharma, and they've got a cure for it, Take this "PILL" !!! be sure to take those PILLS !!!

    February 27, 2014 at 21:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Miked

    Regardless of age, avoid processed foods and eat more natural foods for a few months with exercise to get healthier sperm. That's why immagrants that come from countries with less processed and fast foods are so fertile with many healthy kids. God bless America.

    February 27, 2014 at 21:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Mary

    dud – humans over age 40 are biologically to old to have children. Greater increase in Downs syndrome etc. Why take the chance of old eggs and sperm? why be so selfish to risk the life of that unborn child. You can be to old and having children is for the young. I should know I had my last child at 39 and she had to have 18 inches of her small intestine removed. Caused by what? my age. We were told by the pediatric surgeon that we were not to have any more children - the risk was to great.

    February 27, 2014 at 21:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • JAG

      Thank you for your response.
      It's so frustrating that disorders seem to be always identified via the female whereas the male ids 50% of a child's biology. \
      The answers are still out there but if males are 50% of the biological makeup the males responsibility should not be dismissed.

      February 27, 2014 at 21:44 | Report abuse |
  44. Bonjovs

    they are just defending the maker of vaccine who were billionaire & this people are getting paid big time c'mon man

    February 27, 2014 at 21:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Joe

    Thank you for your B.S. BTW how much the pharmaceutical companies paid you to publish such non-sense?

    February 27, 2014 at 21:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Richard

    These studies are always conflicting. I point to the one two years ago that linked older fathers to longer lifespans. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/9325945/Children-of-older-fathers-are-more-likely-to-live-longer.html

    February 27, 2014 at 21:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Jacky

    The best study is to ask Hugh Hefner, he's 87, fathered many children as an "older" man. Lol. The bottom line folks is if you eat right, stay healthy, you'll be fine. I'm also an older father of young child and we are all perfectly normal. This article is funny, nothing better to talk about.

    February 27, 2014 at 21:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. D

    Too bad the article doesn't mention scope of the statistics. If I buy 20 Powerball tickets, I am 20 times more likely to win the jackpot than if I didn't buy any.

    February 27, 2014 at 21:45 | Report abuse | Reply
    • iCloudius

      'For the study, researchers analyzed data from 2.6 million children born in Sweden between 1973 and 2001, making it one of the largest and most comprehensive studies on the effects of paternal age."

      Third paragraph, genius.

      February 27, 2014 at 21:54 | Report abuse |
  49. Chris

    *Spermatogonia (male primordial germ cells) continue to divide, not sperm which are the end product of spermatogenesis. Scary this came from a professor and the lead author of the study.

    February 27, 2014 at 21:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Eh who cares

    Who cares. Why bother. All you are gonna get is having to pay child support anyways.
    Keep your money get a vasectomy women aren't worth it anymore.

    February 27, 2014 at 21:54 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.