Published On: Thu, Jun 18th, 2015

Is There a Connection Between a Parent’s Age and a Child Having Autism?

A new study says it could?

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A new study conducted by researchers from nine different countries, including Israel, suggests that there is a link between parental age and autism in their children. A significant gap in the age of the two parents may also be a factor.

The study, funded by Autism Speaks, analyzed more than 5.7 million children in five countries.

“Though we’ve seen research on autism and parental age before, this study is like no other, ” says co-author Michael Rosanoff, Autism Speaks’ director of public health research. “By linking national health registries across five countries, we created the world’s largest data set for research into autism’s risk factors. The size allowed us to look at the relationship between parents’ age and autism at a much higher resolution – under a microscope, if you will.”

“Although parental age is a risk factor for autism, it is important to remember that, overall, the majority of children born to older or younger parents will develop normally, ” adds co-author Sven Sandin. Dr. Sandin, a medical epidemiologist, works in the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, in New York, and Sweden’s Karolinska Institute.

Here are some of the findings:

Autism rates were 18 percent higher among children born to teen moms than among those born to moms in their 20s.

Autism rates were 15 percent higher in children born to mothers in their 40s, compared to those born to moms in their 20s

Autism rates rose still higher when both parents were older, in line with what one would expect if each parent’s age contributed to risk.

Autism rates also rose with widening gaps between two parents’ ages. These rates were highest when dads were between 35 and 44 years old and their partners were 10 or more years younger. Conversely, rates rose when moms were in their 30s and their partners were 10 or more years younger

See the full study results here.

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