Parental Age and Cognitive Disability among Children in the United States

Philip N. Cohen, University of Maryland

This study assesses the relationship between children's cognitive disability and parents’ age at birth, using the 2008-2010 American Community Survey for children aged 5-11. Cognitive disability rates were 2.3% overall, and were more strongly related to mothers’ than to fathers’ age at birth. Risks were highest for children whose mothers were age 45+ at birth and lowest for those born to mothers aged 30-34. Although mothers’ age had similar effects on boys and girls, fathers’ age was only associated with boys’ cognitive disability. Recent attention has focused on children's disabilities that may result from de novo mutations in sperm as men age. However, overall risks are much more strongly associated with mothers’ age, consistent with the effects of mothers’ health on their children. However, the effect of fathers’ age on boy’s cognitive disabilities is consistent with recent research on autism and schizophrenia, which are more common among boys.

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Presented in Poster Session 4