During the past for 40 years, it has been noticed that the average age for childbearing has increased steadily. In the US alone, for example, this has risen from 21.5 to 25.4 for women since 1970, while the average age for men is three years older. Driven by changing social trends and the advances made in medical science, we can also expect the average childbearing age to increase incrementally for both men and women in the years ahead.
What is the impact of a rising childbirth age?
While the rising age of childbirth may be an accepted and proven fact. However, its impact on both parents and their children as yet to be fully explored. This is what prompted a recent collaborative study between the Indiana University and medical researchers from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, which set out to determine what an advanced parental age means for those involved. In particular, significant emphasis was placed on the impact of a father’s childbearing age on their child’s academic performance and emotional well-being, especially as some studies have already been focused on the potential implications of a rising childbearing age for women.
The results are subsequently backed by a vast and diverse data set, covering everyone born in Sweden between the years of 1973 and 2001. Most pointedly, they seemed to indicate that children benefit the most when born to younger parents, while those who boast younger fathers can even enjoy particularly significant advantages.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at some of the advantages that children can gain from being born to a younger father:
1. Children born to younger fathers will enjoy far greater mental and emotional health
One of the most startling discoveries made during the survey was that children born to younger fathers are far less likely to experience some emotional and mental disorders. They are 13 times less likely to suffer from ADHD, for example, as well as being 3.5 times less likely to display autistic tendencies. Similarly, they are a staggering 25 times less likely to have a debilitating bipolar disorder, which can create seasonal periods of depression and anxiety.
Interestingly, the study also suggested that children who were born to younger fathers would be 2.5 times less likely to display suicidal behaviour or develop substance abuse problems, hinting at a more robust mental state and outlook. While there is no suggested childbearing age at which these issues become problematic, the difference between infants born to 24 and 45-year-old fathers was particularly striking.
2. Children born to younger fathers can be less susceptible to certain illnesses
On a similar note, the study also highlighted that men are exposed to a number of harmful environmental toxins as they age. From carbon emissions and pollution to the impact of poor air quality within the home, these contaminants can combine to trigger DNA mutations within the sperm of each father. Coupled with the fact that the chance of mutation increases every time sperm replicate, this creates a genetic conundrum that fathers with an older childbearing age must consider.
In contrast, younger fathers are likely to have been exposed to far less environmental toxins and contaminants, which in turn reduces the number of mutations within their DNA. Although the vast majority of these are harmless, it is important to note that there are also disease-causing mutations which can make children more susceptible to specific disorders and physical illnesses.
Those born to younger fathers are more likely to avoid these, however, minimising the risk of them contracting certain diseases.
3. Children born to younger fathers are more likely to achieve academically
We have already touched on the fact that children born to older fathers are more likely to suffer disorders such as ADHD. Disorders of this nature tend to impact negatively on a child’s behaviour and ability to learn, manifesting in a few potential educational issues. This logic was supported by the findings published in the survey, with children born to younger fathers recording improved grades, higher educational attainment and enhanced IQ scores.
Interestingly, the study made allowances for the higher maturity levels and earning capacity of older fathers, which could help to deliver a higher standard of education to children and negate some of the potential genetic issues. Despite this, there remains a clear link between the childbearing age of a father and their child’s academic performance.
The bottom line
Not only are these findings extremely insightful and drawn from a huge group of respondents, but they are also among the first to be focused on the impact of a father’s childbearing age. While the results cannot be applied to every individual father, and other external factors must also be considered, it is clear that a father’s childbearing age has a huge influence on the emotional, mental and physical development of their child as well as their levels of academic attainment.
Similarly, it can also be surmised that children born to younger fathers can benefit from some genetic advantages, particularly as the likelihood of sperm mutations increases with age.