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The impact of parental age on intelligence and life span

Studies suggest older parents have smarter, longer-living children

Regardless of your age, the decision to start a family is exciting. Many men and women often wonder about the right age to start a family. In particular, would it prove more beneficial to start a family when you are younger or older? For example, do children benefit when they are born to youthful parents who are still dealing with their own adulthood struggles? Or, would they be better off with older parents who have not only been around the block a few times, but have also weathered and surmounted a handful of crises?

Who better to ask than experienced parents themselves?

Parental Age and Emotional Maturity

In 2012, Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco conducted a study of 107 people. The majority of the study participants were married, white, and earned above-average incomes. However, the study group included 15 women who had used in vitro fertilization to conceive their first baby when they were in their 40s.

Researchers found, “…a majority of women and men in the study believed that childbearing later in life resulted in advantages for themselves and their families.” What’s more, 72 percent of women and 57 percent of men in the study expressed that the emotional maturity associated with age provided a clear advantage to having children later in life.

In particular, one father explained he was far more emotionally mature and self-aware in his 40s than he was 20 years ago. He felt he was, “…in a better position to communicate better with my child and help them more in life, and I understand how to be a supportive, encouraging parent.”

Do Older Parents Have Smarter Children?

Advanced paternal age (APA) at conception has long been associated with negative outcomes in offspring, raising concerns about increasing the age of fatherhood. However, over the past few years, several studies have championed the advantages to children born to older parents.

In particular, a 2017 study, published in the journal Translational Psychiatry, revealed that children born to older fathers are more likely to have a high IQ. Through the course of the study, researchers from both the U.S. and the U.K. studied 15,000 sets of twins to measure their intelligence at age 12. Most notably, the study found that children born to older fathers are likely to have a higher I.Q. compared to those born to younger parents. Additionally, kids born to older parents exhibited a stronger focus in pursuing their interests and more self-confidence than those born to younger parents.

Advantages to Older Parental Age

Aside from a higher IQ, numerous studies have found significant advantages to children born to older parents. 

  • A 2012 Harvard University study found that children of older parents are more likely to experience longer lives themselves compared to those born to younger fathers. The study noted that aging sperm could transmit longer telomeres, or the very ends of chromosomes, which guard DNA – a finding that was connected to longevity in two generations of offspring.
  • According to a study published in the British Medical Journal, children born to older parents are more likely to lead healthier lives. In particular, researchers discovered that children up to the age of 5 with older moms experienced fewer emotional and social dilemmas, as well as fewer accidental injuries. They were also more likely to make better progress in the area of language development.
  • Another 2016 Danish study found that older mothers, and parents in general, tend to experience fewer meltdowns. Older mothers were better able to set boundaries with their children and were also considered less likely to scream at their children or to severely punish them. As a result, their children experienced fewer social, emotional, and behavioral issues as they grew up.

The Best of Both Worlds with Legacy

Whether you decide to have children now or a few years down the road, what matters most is to take early action and secure the best possible outcomes for you, your partner, and your children. You have the choice to preserve your samples now for use down the road when you are ready both mentally, emotionally, and finally to start your family. As you mature and know the time is right to conceive, you can take advantage of using the stored healthier and younger sample of your earlier years.

Thanks to advances in scientific technology, prospective parents can provide their children the best of both worlds – the strongest genetic material with the benefits of their hard-won maturity. Legacy, a Harvard-incubated company, helps men test their sperm within the comforts and privacy of their home, and freeze their best sperm in cryogenic facilities..

Contact a member of our fertility team to learn more.

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