Study Shows Parental Age as a Factor Influencing Autism Risk


There are a large number of factors that may lead to autism in a child. Researchers and scientists throughout the world are trying to the get the entire picture of how environment, genetics and biology play their roles in autism. In the studies conducted, they have discovered several factors that may be/are responsible for autism in children. Recently a study was conducted that shows a link between risk of autism and parental age.

Study Showing Link Between Autism and Parental Age:

A huge study was conducted including data of over 5.7 million children belonging to five countries. This study may give an insight into how autism occurs, but it raises some new questions at the same time.

In the study, the researchers noted the rates of autism in children born between the years 1985 and 2004, in the countries Australia, Sweden, Norway, Israel and Denmark.

The autism rates noted in the study confirmed that children of older mothers and fathers had a higher autism rate. This has also been shown by studies done previously. The rates are higher also in case of children having teen mothers, and in kids with parents having a wider gap within their ages.

Avraham Reichenberg, a psychiatry professor at ‘Mount Sinai School of Medicine’, New York, and the study’s senior author, says that at this point of time they are still trying to find out why are the autism rates higher in such cases.

The chance of a child developing an ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) is about 1 in 100. However, according to the study, kids with dads over the age of 50, have about two-thirds higher autism risk as compared to kids with dads in the age of 20s.

Researchers have a low level of knowledge on why the kids with older mothers have autism more often. As found by the study, the rate of autism was higher by 15% in kids with mothers in the age of 40s, as compared to the kids with mothers in the age of 20s. The rates of the disorder increased when both the parents were older.

“Of course, age is just one factor that may contribute to autism risk,” says Reichenberg to Shots. “I think the first thing to remember is that most children who are born to older parents won’t have autism.”

When working with prospective mothers over the age of 35, it is standard for doctors to discuss the pregnancy risks for older women. The study indicates that it may be important to ask the age of a woman’s partner, since that may affect the risks potentially.

The figures in case of parents with discrepant ages and very young moms, are even more puzzling, says Reichenberg. Children with teen mothers have rates of autism higher by 18%, as compared to children with moms in the age of 20s. And, when the age gap between the parents widened, their child’s chance of developing autism increased.

Reichenberg says that the numbers are difficult to explain, since several factors may have a role to play. “All we can do is perhaps speculate,” he adds. The reproductive systems of a woman in her teens are not mature fully, and this may affect her child’s development. Or, it may be the case that the socioeconomic status of younger mothers is low in many nations. Hence, a younger mother may face issues like lack of good health care, and that may affect the fetus developing.

“I think this is very powerful epidemiological work,” states Simon Gregory, a Duke University’s genomics researcher. He was not involved in this study. “But there are a lot of caveats here as well.” adds Gregory. One is that, the study did not consider what complications the mothers might have encountered at the time of their pregnancy, which may influence the odds of autism development in the baby, Gregory says. Moreover, the method of autism diagnosis in every country differs slightly. Although researchers have tried to avoid all discrepancies, even minute differences may give inaccurate results, states Gregory.

“In the research community, we’re still trying to figure out how to properly diagnose and classify autism spectrum disorders. And we’re a ways away from understanding the underlying mechanisms responsible” says Gregory. “It’s a very complex story to tell.”

Similar to parental age, there are many factors that have been linked to autism development in children. Researchers and scientists are continuously trying to find out the causes of autism, and methods to treat the disorder.

Treatment of Autism:

Although autism is not curable fully till now, there are different treatments and interventions that can reduce the disorder’s symptoms to a large extent. Some of them are – Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), Language Therapy, Physical Therapy, Behavioral Intervention and Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT).

Although HBOT is not approved by FDA for the treatment of autism, many parents have reported that the therapy has been beneficial and effective in treating their children’s autism. There are many organizations that offer hyperbaric chamber for sale. Parents of autistic kids may consider this alternative treatment option for their children, but only after consulting a reputed pediatrician or doctor having expertize in ASD treatment. A pediatrician or doctor can suggest the right treatment/intervention for a child with autism.

Chloe Paltrow
Chloe Paltrow, a medical assistant. She has shared her knowledge in various websites and blogs like PsychCentral, Collective Evolution and Pick The Brain. Currently, she is studying how brain injury and brain disorders can be treated with hyperbaric chambers.