The effect of paternal age on offspring intelligence and personality when controlling for paternal trait level

Ruben C. Arslan, Lars Penke, Wendy Johnson, William G. Iacono, Matt McGue

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations

Abstract

Paternal age at conception has been found to predict the number of new genetic mutations. We examined the effect of father's age at birth on offspring intelligence, head circumference and personality traits. Using the Minnesota Twin Family Study sample we tested paternal age effects while controlling for parents' trait levels measured with the same precision as offspring's. From evolutionary genetic considerations we predicted a negative effect of paternal age on offspring intelligence, but not on other traits. Controlling for parental intelligence (IQ) had the effect of turning an initially positive association non-significantly negative. We found paternal age effects on offspring IQ and Multidimensional Personality Questionnaire Absorption, but they were not robustly significant, nor replicable with additional covariates. No other noteworthy effects were found. Parents' intelligence and personality correlated with their ages at twin birth, which may have obscured a small negative effect of advanced paternal age (<1% of variance explained) on intelligence. We discuss future avenues for studies of paternal age effects and suggest that stronger research designs are needed to rule out confounding factors involving birth order and the Flynn effect.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere90097
JournalPloS one
Volume9
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 25 2014

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