Paternal Age Alters Social Development in Offspring

J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2017 May;56(5):383-390. doi: 10.1016/j.jaac.2017.02.006. Epub 2017 Mar 6.


Objective: Advanced paternal age (APA) at conception has been linked with autism and schizophrenia in offspring, neurodevelopmental disorders that affect social functioning. The current study explored the effects of paternal age on social development in the general population.

Method: We used multilevel growth modeling to investigate APA effects on socioemotional development from early childhood until adolescence, as measured by the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) in the Twins Early Development Study (TEDS) sample. We also investigated genetic and environmental underpinnings of the paternal age effects on development, using the Additive genetics, Common environment, unique Environment (ACE) and gene-environment (GxE) models.

Results: In the general population, both very young and advanced paternal ages were associated with altered trajectory of social development (intercept: p = .01; slope: p = .03). No other behavioral domain was affected by either young or advanced age at fatherhood, suggesting specificity of paternal age effects. Increased importance of genetic factors in social development was recorded in the offspring of older but not very young fathers, suggesting distinct underpinnings of the paternal age effects at these two extremes.

Conclusion: Our findings highlight that the APA-related deficits that lead to autism and schizophrenia are likely continuously distributed in the population.

Keywords: advanced paternal age; autism; neurodevelopment; schizophrenia; social development.

Publication types

  • Twin Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Autistic Disorder / etiology
  • Child
  • Child Development*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Gene-Environment Interaction
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurodevelopmental Disorders / genetics*
  • Parents*
  • Risk Factors
  • Schizophrenia / etiology
  • Social Adjustment*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires