Will autism risk convince men to breed early?

A new study could have implications for relationships

By Alex Halperin
Published August 23, 2012 5:16PM (EDT)

A groundbreaking study has found that men who put off fathering children increase their risk of autism and schizophrenia. The New York Times reports:

The study, published online in the journal Nature, provides support for the argument that the surging rate of autism diagnoses over recent decades is attributable in part to the increasing average age of fathers, which could account for as many as 20 to 30 percent of cases.

While the change in autism rate is believed to be small, and dependent on other factors that are not well understood, the piece ends with what's sure to be the chattering class takeaway: What does it mean for relationships?

That very much depends on the individual. “You are going to have guys who look at this and say, ‘Oh no, you mean I have to have all my kids when I’m 20 and stupid?’ ” said Evan E. Eichler, a professor of genome sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle. “Well, of course not. You have to understand that the vast majority of these mutations have no consequences, and that there are tons of guys in their 50s who have healthy children.”

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Alex Halperin

Alex Halperin is news editor at Salon. You can follow him on Twitter @alexhalperin.

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Autism Media Parenting Relationships Science