Advanced Parental Age and the Risk of Autism Spectrum Disorder

    Maureen S. Durkin, Matthew J. Maenner, Craig J. Newschaffer, Li-Ching Lee, Christopher M. Cunniff, Julie L. Daniels, Russell S. Kirby, Lewis Leavitt, Lisa Miller, Walter Zahorodny and Laura A. Schieve
    American Journal of Epidemiology 2008 168(11):1268-1276; doi:10.1093/aje/kwn250

    This study evaluated independent effects of maternal and paternal age on risk of autism spectrum disorder. A case-cohort design was implemented using data from 10 US study sites participating in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network. The 1994 birth cohort included 253,347 study-site births with complete parental age information. Cases included 1,251 children aged 8 years with complete parental age information from the same birth cohort and identified as having an autism spectrum disorder based on Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision criteria.

    After adjustment for the other parent's age, birth order, maternal education, and other covariates, both maternal and paternal age were independently associated with autism (adjusted odds ratio for maternal age 35 vs. 25-29 years = 1.3, 95% confidence interval: 1.1, 1.6; adjusted odds ratio for paternal age 40 years vs. 25-29 years = 1.4, 95% confidence interval: 1.1, 1.8). Firstborn offspring of 2 older parents were 3 times more likely to develop autism than were third- or later-born offspring of mothers aged 20-34 years and fathers aged <40 years (odds ratio = 3.1, 95% confidence interval: 2.0, 4.7). The increase in autism risk with both maternal and paternal age has potential implications for public health planning and investigations of autism etiology.