How a Father's Age Can Affect His Children

Created by Emily Chang, Scott Hadly, Shirley Wu, Antonio Contreras, Becca Ling and Brian Naughton

Enter father's age at conception:


This calculation is based upon the linear regression model presented in the article Kong A, et al. Rate of de novo mutations and the importance of father's age to disease risk. 488, 471-475 (2012)
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. Not yet a customer? Visit our store or learn more.