Older mothers and fathers are more likely to have a child with autism, according to a recently published study led by researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth).

The researchers compared 68 age- and sex-matched, case-control pairs from their research in Jamaica, where UTHealth has been studying autism in collaboration with The University of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica.

“This should put to rest discrepancies in previous studies showing that just maternal age or just paternal age are linked to having a child with autism,” said Mohammad Hossein Rahbar, Ph.D., principal investigator and professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at The University of Texas School of Public Health, part of UTHealth. “Our results revealed that the age of the father and the mother are jointly associated with autism in their children.”

The study found that mothers who had children with autism were on average 6.5 years older than women who did not have a child with autism. The corresponding age difference for fathers was 5.9 years.

Previous studies used statistical models that made it hard to assess both maternal and paternal age as joint risk factors, a problem called multicollinearity, Rahbar said, noting he was able to use more complex statistical models to avoid the problem.

The research was published this month in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

Source: The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth)