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Reproduction Age and Risk of Mental Illness

October 4, 2012

It has been a theory for a long time that older women are more likely to birth children with mental illness and developmental issues than young women are. The article Father’s Age Is Linked to Risk of Autism and Schizophrenia reveals that it is not always the mother’s age that is a risk factor, but in the cases of complicated neurological disorders it is the father’s age that is the risk factor. The article was written by Benedict Carey and published by The New York Times on August 22, 2012, and it seems to holds scientifically sound information. As men age the number of sperm mutations steadily increases two every year, some of which cause complications and some of which do not. This is due to the frequent sperm cell splitting and the susceptibility to environmental factors, which the female’s eggs to not undergo. The increasing number of autism and schizophrenia cases in the last few decades is partially a result of a larger number of aged fathers, and partially do to other contributing factors. This link between father’s age and risk of the child having autism and perhaps schizophrenia is the first important and scientifically sound breakthrough in finding the causes of these complex mental illnesses.

The next step for scientists to find what the other contributing factors are. The risk factor of the father’s age only accounts for 20 or 30 percent of the cases. What accounts for the other 70-80 percent and why do the number of diagnoses continue to rise? The other popular theories of mother’s age and vaccinations are not likely causes. I suppose that scientists will have to continue doing studies until they find new possibilities.

The information that a father’s age can cause complicated neurological dysfunctions may be a powerful tool to society. With this information we are more capable of understanding the complex mental diseases and disorders. With a better understanding we can take preventive measures, we may be able to design better treatment options, and hopefully integrate mentally ill people into society more proficiently.

~Lauren Berg

2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 5, 2012 6:08 pm

    Hi Lauren,
    Thank you for posting this information! I’m one of those that was still under the popular belief that the women’s aged egg is to blame for some birth defects and mental illnesses at childbirth. This article really makes sense though. When I consider that women are born with all the eggs they will ever have and men are continuously making new sperm, it’s logical that sperm would be more susceptible to mutation than eggs. Notwithstanding maternal environmental destructive possibilities.

    Something else has come to mind as well. I haven’t researched this topic so I’m unfamiliar with older or recent studies indicating paternal responsibility for birth defects and mental illnesses. I’m wondering though, why have social scientists focused exclusively on the aged egg as the responsibility for birth defects and mental illnesses? Is our society still so archaic that errors in reproduction must be caused by the woman? Have we just recently begun looking into male responsibility?

    I am in no way implying or suggesting that ANY CAUSE of mental illness or birth defect is acceptable if prevention is possible. Your post just inspired more insight into age old female/male equality.

    Tawnya Severe

  2. October 11, 2012 2:40 am

    I found this article and your post interesting, because it goes against the general assumption that the general public has about how the mothers age is important in considering the child’s health. Our society to me seems to put the blame on the mother because she is the one carrying the child. According to your post the fathers is the one who has the chance of making the child susceptible to mental illnesses. I will find it interesting to see what other research and data comes up with regarding this topic. The fact is that the older the parents are the higher the chance of complications are. Our society seems to want to be able to point the finger at someone instead of embracing and educating themselves on the issue.

    Cody Hahn

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