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Kids Born To Older Parents And Teen Moms At Higher Risk Of Autism

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Experts discover the impact of paternal age, maternal age and parental age gaps on the risk of having a child with autism. The study shows that older parents, teen moms and those with large age disparities are at the highest risk. Autism is a developmental brain disorder that is theorized to be caused by a variety of factors, most notably, genetics.

The research, led by Michael Rosanoff director of public health research at Autism Speaks, analyzed the statistical data of more 5.7 million children in Israel, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Western Australia, including 30,000 more diagnosed with autism. All the study subjects were born between 1985 and 2004, and the research team monitored their developmental status, evaluating whether autism diagnoses were made as per national records. The data gathered in this study is said to be the largest dataset to be used in a research about autism risk and parental age.

Part of the study findings published in the Molecular Psychiatry journal reveal that children whose dads became a father in their 40s are 28 percent at risk of autism, compared to those who had their children in their 20s. Children with dads who became fathers after their 50s are 66 percent at risk of having autism compared to those whose dads became fathers in their 20s.

Maternal age findings reveal that teenage moms are more at risk to have a child with autism by 18 percent, compared to those moms in their 20s. Children born to mothers aged 40 and above are 15 percent more at risk of autism, compared to children whose mothers gave birth in their 20s.

Parental age gap is also found to have an impact on autism risk. The highest risk of autism was noted in children whose fathers were aged between 35 and 44 and their mothers were at least 10 years younger. Mothers in their 30s whose partners are younger than them by at least 10 years had children with increased autism risks.

"There's no other data set like this out there," Rosanoff tells CBS News "We've seen in previous literature that older parents are at a higher risk of having a child with autism, but what we're unsure of is if it's the father's age that increases the risk, if it's the mother's age, or if it's both. This study was able to look at the effects of maternal age and paternal age both independently and jointly."

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