Student Lab Classroom Science Lesson Students

A child’s physical features can often be attributed to either their mother or their father, just by visual inspection. However, our subtler behavioural traits are often harder to attribute to individual parents. For certain, our physical and behavioural state is a product of our genetic blueprint and our environment.

New research published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (JAACAP) found that, how a child acquires social skills can be linked to paternal age.   The research group based at the Seaver Autism Center for Research and Treatment at Mount Sinai, used a 15,000 cohort of twins based in the UK, who were followed from 4 to 16 years of age. They found that children with fathers who were younger than 25 or older than 51 years displayed more prosocial behaviour in early development, but were below their peers (from middle aged fathers) in later development. The group also investigated whether this phenomenon was due to environmental or genetic factors and astonishingly, they found that paternal genetics played a larger role [1].

This research is of particular interest as it may provide insights into the role parental age plays on the risk of certain diseases such as autism and schizophrenia. The lead author Dr Janecka, commented in a press release that further work to investigate neural structures which are affected by paternal age at conception may provide a mechanism behind these effects on social development [2]. This new research comes at a time when there is a lot of focus on maternal age and the impact this can have on general pre- and post-natal development; perhaps  society should be focusing on conceiving couples as a pair, rather than just on the individual.



[1] Paternal Age Alters Social Development in Offspring. Janecka, Magdalena et al.(2017). Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Volume 56 , Issue 5 , 383 – 390.