Older fathers can also create genetic risks for children

One of the features of evolution is that once we have passed the age when we can have and raise children to a point where they can survive on their own and go on to have children, we have played our part in the process and have become redundant, evolutionarily speaking. Although our own bodies start to decay, this has no biological effect on our children.

Of course, thanks to science, we are now living much longer and have children at much older ages. People have long been aware that the danger of genetic risks to babies increases with the mother’s age. Older men who father children with women much younger than them were thought not to increase the risks of things like schizophrenia and autism.

But a new study says that men accumulate increased genetic mutations with age and can pass those on to their children too. “By the time a man reached the age of 40, his offspring had on average 65 random mutations that traced back to the paternal genetic material—that’s 260% more mutations than a 20-year-old dad would, on average, give to his children.” This research is significant since the average paternal age is increasing.

The study involved 78 family groups of a woman, man, and a child, many of whom had mental disorders. From the child’s DNA, they were able to see if the genetic mutation came from the mother or the father.

You can read the paper here.


  1. smrnda says

    This is interesting, though I recall once encountering a naive suggestion that (for mothers – this was before this research or anything similar was out ) having kids earlier was better, but without realistically taking account of why lifestyle changes have resulted in people having children later in life.

  2. Corvus illustris says

    The title subject is briefly discussed in Steve Jones’ little nontechnical book Y: the descent of men, Little, Brown (2002), with additional discussion and some additional (presumably outdated) references.

  3. slc1 says

    I don’t quite see what is new here. Artificial insemination labs have long had restrictions against accepting sperm donations from older men (>30) on the basis of deterioration in the quality of the sperm with age.

  4. Pierce R. Butler says

    My father was 49 when I was born.

    With all those extra mutations, why don’t I have superpowers?

  5. says

    It seems to me that this result is being downplayed. Or am I just paranoid? Helllloooo? Actual evidence of a cause-effect relationship influencing ASD?

    I wonder if all the anti-vaxxers will change their views, now.

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