27 Feb Advanced Paternal Age: Increased Risk of Psychiatric Problems in Offspring
MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Brian D’Onofrio, PhD
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences
Indiana University Bloomington, IN
MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings of your study?
Dr. D’Onofrio: The main finding from our study is that the specific associations between advancing paternal age at childbearing and offspring psychiatric and academic problems were much larger than in previous studies. In fact, we found that advancing paternal age was associated with greater risk for several problems, such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, suicide attempts and substance use problems, whereas traditional research designs suggested advancing paternal age may have diminished the rate at which these problems occur.
MedicalResearch.com: Were any of the findings surprising?
Dr. D’Onofrio: When we conducted traditional analyses that compared the rates of psychiatric and educational problems between unrelated offspring our findings were generally consistent with previous studies. But, we were shocked when we conducted more advanced analyses that compared the rates of these problems among siblings—we compared offspring born when a father was younger to their siblings when the father was older. We did not expect that the magnitude of the associations between advancing paternal age at childbearing and offspring problems would be larger. As a result, we conducted a series of additional analyses, which provided similar results.
MedicalResearch.com: What should clinicians and patients take away from this report?
Dr. D’Onofrio: Certainly delaying childbearing is associated with numerous factors, such as advanced educational attainment and more financial security for the parents, that are associated with better adjustment in children. But, the implications of the study is that delaying childbearing is also associated with increased risk for psychiatric and academic problems in the offspring.
We are not saying that all offspring born to older fathers will have psychiatric or educational problems. Rather, the study found that advancing paternal age at childbearing is associated with greater risk for serious problems in offspring that are associated with great impairment. As such, the study adds to a growing body of research, that suggests families, doctors, and society as a whole must consider both the pros and cons of delaying childbearing.
MedicalResearch.com: What further research do you recommend as a result of these findings?
Dr. D’Onofrio: The findings need to be replicated by other studies that use advanced methods to examine the consequences of advancing paternal age. And, more research needs to examine the factors that account for the findings. The results are consistent with molecular genetic research that link advancing paternal age at childbearing to more genetic mutations in their sperm. But, there could be other explanations as well.
Paternal Age at Childbearing and Offspring Psychiatric and Academic Morbidity
D’Onofrio BM, Rickert ME, Frans E, et al. Paternal Age at Childbearing and Offspring Psychiatric and Academic Morbidity. JAMA Psychiatry. 2014;():. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.4525.