Harvard Mental Health Letter

Commentary: Older father, autistic child

Commentary

Older father, autistic child

The risk of autism rises in children with older fathers, according to a study based on a broad sample of the Israeli population and published in the September, 2006, issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

We've known for a long time that older women (over age 35) are much more likely to give birth to a child with Down syndrome. More recent studies have shown that older men are more likely to father a child who eventually develops schizophrenia. This research adds another serious disorder to the list.

Autism's disabling features, which begin in early childhood, include abnormal social development, unusual behavior, and difficulty communicating. Language is usually impaired, sometimes severely. About two-thirds of autistic adults are mentally retarded, and most cannot live independently.

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