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Research links older dads with autistic children

Couples where the father is over 40 when the woman conceives are six times more likely to have autistic children, according to new study.

Posted: 5 September 2006
by Susan Lawson

A new study cites a link between the age of a father and the instance in a child of autism.

Over 130,000 cases of babies born in Israel in the 1980s were examined in a new study which looked at the ages of both parents and the instance of autism in their children. Because all young men, and the majority of young women are assessed at 17 by the draft board in that country, data was readily available which took into account their own health and condition plus valuable research information about their parents and their socio-economic backgrounds.

Men over 40 were found to be six times more likely to father autistic children than men under 30 years old.

Much is usually made of the woman's 'biological clock', but this study links a man's age to the child's health. (Some previous research has linked older fathers with instance of some mental illness.) In this study, they found no link between the mother's age and an increase or decrease in cases of autism.

The research has been welcomed as a path to understanding the genetic links to autism, although some analysts believe the theory must now be tested with other groups of children from other countries in different situations, to expand out the results.

The numbers of children being diagnosed as being 'on the autism spectrum' have drastically increased in recent years. However some of this is believed to be associated with the raised awareness of certain behavioural patterns now being associated with autism.

For more about autism, visit the website of the Autism Research Centre.

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