It's always seemed kind of unfair that while a woman's fertility comes with a hard-and-fast expiration date, men can have kids at any time. But according to new research recently published in Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, there may be a catchIn addition to the fact that children born to men older than 35 have a greater risk of developing autism and schizophrenia, their social skills may actually suffer as well.
Researchers asked parents of 15,000 twins between the ages of 4 and 16 to fill out behavioral assessments about their kids. They then compared the answers to each child's father's age at conception. They found that the kids of older dads (over 51) showed greater social development early on, but began to lag socially behind kids of younger dads once they reached adolescence. And get this: They discovered the same pattern in kids whose dads were very young (under 25), too!
"Our study suggests that social skills are a key domain affected by paternal age," explained lead study author Magdalena Janecka, PhD. "What was interesting is that the development of those skills was altered in the offspring of both older as well as very young fathers."
But while the result for both age groups is similar, Dr. Janecka says the reasoning behind it is probably not. "Increased importance of genetic factors observed in the offspring of older, but not very young fathers, suggests that there could be different mechanisms behind the effects at these two extremes of paternal age," she explained.
Of course, more research is needed to understand exactly how a child's brain structure is affected by their father's age. But in the meantime, if your dad was particularly young or old when you were born and you were socially challenged in your teens, at least now you know who to blame—and for once, the moms are off the hook!