Public Release: 

Older dads have 'geekier' sons

King's College London

New King's College London research suggests that sons of older fathers are more intelligent, more focused on their interests and less concerned about fitting in, all characteristics typically seen in 'geeks'.

While previous research has shown that children of older fathers are at a higher risk of some adverse outcomes, including autism and schizophrenia, this new study published today in Translational Psychiatry suggests that children of older fathers may also have certain advantages over their peers in educational and career settings.

The researchers from King's College London and The Seaver Autism Center for Research and Treatment at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in the United States collected behavioural and cognitive data from 15,000 UK-based twin pairs in the Twins Early Development Study (TEDS).

When the twins were 12 years old, they completed online tests that measured 'geek-like' traits, including non-verbal IQ, strong focus on the subject of interest and levels of social aloofness. Parents were also asked whether their child cares about how they are perceived by their peers and if they have any interests that take up substantial majority of their time. Using this information, the researchers computed a 'geek index' for every child in the study. Overall, higher geek index scores were reported in the sons of older fathers. This effect persisted after controlling for parent's social/economic status, qualifications and employment. In addition, they found that 'geekier' children do better in school exams, particularly in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects, several years after their geek index was measured.

?Dr Magdalena Janecka from King's College London and The Seaver Autism Center at Mount Sinai, said: 'Our study suggests that there may be some benefits associated with having an older father. We have known for a while about the negative consequences of advanced paternal age, but now we have shown that these children may also go on to have better educational and career prospects.'

Although the study did not directly investigate the role of environmental factors, there are a number of potential reasons why older fathers may have 'geekier' sons. For example, older fathers are likely to have more established careers and a higher socioeconomic status than younger fathers, meaning that their children may be brought up in more enriched environments and have access to better schooling.

These results also have implications for understanding links between higher paternal age, autism and characteristics typically seen in 'geeks'. Although the researchers could not measure it directly, they hypothesise that some of the genes for geekiness and for autism are overlapping, and that those genes are more likely to be present in older fathers. Dr Janecka added: 'When the child is born only with some of those genes, they may be more likely to succeed in school. However, with a higher 'dose' of these genes, and when there are other contributing risk factors, they may end up with a higher predisposition for autism. This is supported by recent research showing that genes for autism are also linked with higher IQ.'

###

Notes to editors

For further media information please contact Jack Stonebridge, Senior Press Officer, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King's College London jack.stonebridge@kcl.ac.uk/ 020 7848 5377.

About King's College London - http://www.kcl.ac.uk

King's College London is one of the top 25 universities in the world (2016/17 QS World University Rankings) and among the oldest in England. King's has more than 26,500 students (of whom nearly 10,400 are graduate students) from some 150 countries worldwide, and nearly 6,900 staff. The university is in the second phase of a £1 billion redevelopment programme which is transforming its estate.

King's has an outstanding reputation for world-class teaching and cutting-edge research. In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF) King's was ranked 6th nationally in the 'power' ranking, which takes into account both the quality and quantity of research activity, and 7th for quality according to Times Higher Education rankings. Eighty-four per cent of research at King's was deemed 'world-leading' or 'internationally excellent' (3* and 4*). The university is in the top seven UK universities for research earnings and has an overall annual income of more than £600 million.

King's has a particularly distinguished reputation in the humanities, law, the sciences (including a wide range of health areas such as psychiatry, medicine, nursing and dentistry) and social sciences including international affairs. It has played a major role in many of the advances that have shaped modern life, such as the discovery of the structure of DNA and research that led to the development of radio, television, mobile phones and radar.

King's College London and Guy's and St Thomas', King's College Hospital and South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trusts are part of King's Health Partners. King's Health Partners Academic Health Sciences Centre (AHSC) is a pioneering global collaboration between one of the world's leading research-led universities and three of London's most successful NHS Foundation Trusts, including leading teaching hospitals and comprehensive mental health services. For more information, visit: http://www.kingshealthpartners.org.

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.