Women are fully aware (and constantly reminded) of their biological fertility clock, but with men, it’s genuinely accepted that as long as they can, um perform, they can father a child. However, new research suggests there may be genetic consequences for men who father children very early or very late in life, as paternal age at conception could influence an offspring’s future social skills.

The study, now published online in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, found evidence to suggest that children born to very young and older fathers, described in the study as below 25 and over 51, showed more prosocial behaviors in early development. However, while this may initially be a plus, the team also observed that by the time these children reached adolescence, they lagged behind their peers with middle-aged fathers. What’s more, these social effects had no relation to maternal age, and seemed to be solely influenced by the father's age at conception. The team suggest two different mechanisms may be behind these differences.

Read: Father's Age At Conception Could Determine Child's Height And Cholesterol

"We observed those effects in the general population, which suggests children born to very young or older fathers may find social situations more challenging, even if they do not meet the diagnostic criteria for autism,” explained study researcher Dr. Magdalena Janecka, in a recent statement.

For the study, the team looked at more than 15,000 twins, who they followed from age 4 to 16. The team looked at both the fathers’ ages and how they could have affected the children’s social skills, interaction with peers, hyperactivity, and emotional health. In addition, they also took other outside genetic and environmental factors into account when analyzing what may have led to different social trends.

Results showed paternal age did appear to influence offspring’s social skills, although the exact reason why or how remains unclear.

"In extreme cases, these effects may contribute to clinical disorders, added Janecka. “Our study, however, suggests that they could also be much more subtle."

Social skills are not the first trait to be contributed to a father’s age at conception. Past research has suggested that children of older fathers may be at heightened risk for higher cholesterol. The research determined that children born to fathers aged 35 and older had slightly higher cholesterol. While the study couldn't exactly blame the children’s cholesterol on their father’s age, certain genes responsible for growth and metabolism in the father's' sperm may have changed as they aged.

Source: Janecka M, Haworth CMA, Ronald A, et al. Paternal Age Alters Social Development in Offspring. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. 2017

See Also:

Does Age Affect Sperm Quality? Mick Jagger Becomes Father For 8th Time At Age 73

Men Also Have a Biological Clock: Older Dads Pass on More Gene Mutations, Linked to Autism and Schizophrenia