LONDON — Many aspiring parents don’t wait too long to have kids thanks to the various studies pointing to health risks associated with older age and conception. But a new study finds that boys born to older fathers tend to be geekier — that is, show greater intelligence while worrying less about what others think of them personally.
Researchers at King’s College in London examined 15,000 twin pairs who participated in the Twins Early Development Study (TEDS) conducted at the university. They hoped to find whether paternal age at conception played a role in the “geekiness” of a father’s male offspring.
Participants in the study, all of whom were 12 years of age, were asked to complete questionnaires measuring various “geek-like” traits often associated with gifted individuals, including non-verbal IQ score, level of social aloofness, how much they worry about the way others view them, and interest in closely studying particular fields.
After external factors were controlled for, the researchers found that boys born to older fathers were generally geekier than their peers, which often manifested in better school performance, even years after the questionnaire had been taken. The finding held especially true for boys in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects.
“Our study suggests that there may be some benefits associated with having an older father,” says lead researcher Dr. Magdalena Janecka in a university press release. “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.”
One possible explanation for the researchers’ findings is that older fathers tend to be of better socioeconomic status, which enables their sons to grow up in a more enriched environment, augmented by better schooling.
The researchers hope that further research can explore the interrelatedness of variables such as increased paternal age and a geeky personality with autism.
They note that both extraordinary biological and environmental factors can result in offspring being on the spectrum, and that high IQ and autism often go hand in hand.
The study’s findings were published in the journal Translational Psychology.