Does Your Sperm Have an Expiration Date?

Kirsten Curtis |

A new study sheds some light on the risks of being an older dad.

Doctors have known for years that a mother’s age can affect the health of her child. But the relationship between a dad’s age and his kid’s health has been a little less clear.

Now, a new study in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry adds evidence to support that the father’s age matters, too. How old a man is when he fathers his kids can influence their social development, it finds.

In the study, the kids of older dads—defined as over 51 years old—showed greater social development early on, but by the time they reached adolescence, they began to lag socially behind kids of younger dads.

Interestingly, the researchers detected the same progression—better social development early, with stalled social skills later on—in kids whose dads were very young (under 25) when they were born, too.

These effects were not related to maternal age, they say.

The researchers concluded that social development was hindered in the children of both very young and older dads. But while the result is similar, the reason is likely different, the researchers say in a press release.

Case in point: Genetic factors seemed to be driving the social development issue in children of older dads, which wasn’t as much the case in kids of the youngest dads, the researchers find. In fact, previous studies have found that the risk of certain genetic mutations increases the older a man gets.

But it’s also possible that while the social development issues may be genetic for older dads, they may not necessarily be age-dependent. For instance, it might be that men who conceive at an older age have more social difficulties themselves—which they may pass on the predisposition for regardless of age.

More research is needed to understand how a child’s brain structure is affected by their dad’s age, the researchers say.

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