Both maternal and paternal age behind autism: Study

Last Updated: Saturday, February 11, 2012 - 13:53

Washington: Older maternal and paternal ages are together associated with having a child with autism, a new study has revealed.

Researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) compared 68 age- and sex-matched, case-control pairs from their research in Jamaica, where UTHealth has been studying autism in collaboration with The University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, Kingston, Jamaica.

“This should put to rest discrepancies in previous studies showing that just maternal age or just paternal age are linked to having a child
with autism,” said Mohammad Hossein Rahbar, Ph.D., principal investigator and professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at The University of Texas School of Public Health, part of UTHealth.

“Our results revealed that the age of the father and the mother are jointly associated with autism in their children,” said Rahbar, who is also director of the Biostatistics, Epidemiology and Research Design (BERD) component of the Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences (CCTS) at UTHealth.

In the study, researchers found that mothers who had children with autism were on average 6.5 years older than women who did not have a child with autism.

The corresponding age difference for fathers was 5.9 years.

In previous studies, Rahbar said that because of the statistical models used, it was hard to assess both maternal and fraternal age as joint risk factors, a problem called multicollinearity.

He was able to use more complex statistical models to avoid the problem.

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) are complex, neurodevelopmental and behavioural disorders characterized by impairments in social interaction and communication and repetitive, sometimes obsessive, behaviours.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a conservative estimate is that one in every 100 children has an ASD.

The study has been published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.


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First Published: Saturday, February 11, 2012 - 13:53

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