How a Father's Age Can Affect His Children
Created by Emily Chang, Scott Hadly, Shirley Wu, Antonio Contreras, Becca Ling and Brian Naughton
A father can pass along much to his children: a sense of humor, compassion, good character.
In addition to personality traits, a father also passes on genetic changes, or mutations. Some of these mutations will be new
— “de novo”
mutations that he himself did not inherit from his parents but that occurred only in the DNA of his sperm cells.
A recent study
of Icelandic families has shown that the
number of de novo
mutations a father passes on to his children is highly correlated with his age at the time of their conception.
On average, the study found that older fathers pass on more mutations to their children than younger fathers.
It is unclear what health consequences, if any, these new mutations have on the child. There is an association between
a father's age and his child's risk of schizophrenia and autism spectrum disorders. Some researchers hypothesize that this may be at least partly due
to the greater number of mutations that older fathers pass on to their children, but more research is needed in this area.
This study did not find a correlation between maternal age and the number of mutations in her children; mothers passed along approximately 14 new
mutations, on average,
regardless of their age. The risk of other types of genetic changes such
as Down syndrome, however, increase with maternal age. One explanation why Down syndrome risk
increases with maternal age is given at the Tech Museum website.
Interested in learning more
about your genetics? 23andMe offers personalized genetic information about several different
health conditions and traits.
The mutations covered in these reports, however, are not de novo mutations but rather more common genetic variants that your parents inherited from their parents and passed along to you.
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