A study by John McGrath and colleagues, published by PLoS Medicine earlier this week, showed that the offspring of older fathers exhibit subtle impairments on tests of neurocognitive ability during infancy and childhood.
The data used for this study formed part of the US Collaborative Perinatal Project (CPP), which tested each child in the dataset at 8 months, 4 years and 7 years of age with a number of widely-used intelligence scales – including assessments of sensory discrimination and hand-eye coordination, conceptual and physical coordination, and at 7 years reading, spelling and arithmetic ability.
Crucially in their reanalysis of this dataset, McGrath and colleagues adjusted their study to take into account socio-economic factors. They used two models: one that focused on physical factors including the parents’ age, and a second that indexed social factors such as maternal and paternal education and family income. They found that the older the father, the more likely the child was to have lower scores on the various tests used by the CPP – with the exception of one measure of physical coordination. The researchers also grouped the children by their mother’s age and found that in contrast, the older the mother the higher the scores of the child in the cognitive tests.
This study is discussed in a related Perspective by Mary Cannon and received a range of news coverage, including:
– BBC News
– The Age
– ABC News