Big study equals big results: Autism risk linked to parent age

Big study equals big results: Autism risk linked to parent age

On Wednesday, a study was published in Molecular Psychiatry by Autism Speaks that looked at 5.7 million children in search of a link between the parents’ age and autism risk.


This large scale study reaffirmed the correlation between an increase of autism rates and the age of a child’s parents. Children born to fathers over 50 years of age were at a 66 percent higher risk than children born to fathers in their 20s. Children born to mothers around the age of 40 have a 15 percent higher risk of autism than those born to mothers around the age of 20.


Sperm cells

Genetic mutations accumulate in the human body as people age and thus increases the risk of autism in children. (

Michael Rosanoff, the Director of Public Health Research for Autism Speaks, believes that risk factors increase as parents get older due to mutations which accumulate in egg and sperm cells. Conversely, children born to parents in their teenage years can also increase the risk of autism. There is an 18 percent higher risk for children born to teen mothers rather than mothers who are around the age of 20.


Because these statistics were found from such a massive sample size, the researchers were able to see just how big of an impact parental age had on the risk factors for autism. “The size of the study speaks to the definitiveness of the findings,” said Rosanoff.


Medical epidemiologist, Sven Sandin, made sure to inform the public that these results shouldn’t deter parents from having kids.

“Although parental age is a risk factor for autism, it is important to remember that, overall, the majority of children born to older or younger parents will develop normally.”


With more information on risk factors, researchers have a better idea of how they should advance their research from here to discover genetic links in autism.


Now that we have a better understanding of autism’s risk factors, what could this mean for further research on this developmental disorder? Leave a comment or talk to me on Twitter @Karbowski_Devon.

Devon Karbowski

Devon Karbowski graduated from the University of Minnesota Duluth in 2015. He received a BA in Writing Studies with an emphasis in Professional Writing and a minor in Philosophy. Currently, he is using his degree to pursue a career in freelance writing, proposal writing and social media management. The focal point of his MUI PR articles will involve public relations related topics.

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