Men that have children at an older age may put their grandchildren at a higher risk of having autism, according to a new study published in JAMA Psychiatry this week. The study maintains that risk factors for autism may increase over several generations, with a father and grandfather’s lifestyle choices wielding a direct impact on future generations.
Previous research suggested that an older paternal age could predispose children to autism— this development goes a step further, suggesting risk factors can be established earlier in the genetic line.
The report states that men who had a daughter when they were 50 or older were 1.79 times more likely to have a grandchild with autism than a man who had a child when he was 20 to 24 years old. Men who had a son at 50 or later were 1.67 times more likely to have a grandchild with autism.
Doctors stress that these findings should not cause excessive alarm, as the study was not conclusive in proving advanced age leads to autistic children. While doctors point to a statistically significant increase in cases of autism with older grandparents, it is emphasized that autism was highly infrequent even in families with the oldest grandparents.
This study follows on the heels of an earlier report this week from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stating that 1 in 50 school-children are diagnosed with autism, a dramatic increase from prior years.