Risk of Autism and Increasing Maternal and Paternal Age in a Large North American Population
Previous studies are inconsistent regarding whether there are independent effects of maternal and paternal age on the risk of autism. Different biologic mechanisms are suggested by maternal and paternal age effects. The study population included all California singletons born in 1989-2002 (n = 7,550,026). Children with autism (n = 23,311) were identified through the California Department of Developmental Services and compared with the remainder of the study population, with parental ages and covariates obtained from birth certificates. Adjusted odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals were used to evaluate the risk of autism associated with increasing maternal and paternal age. In adjusted models that included age of the other parent and demographic covariates, a 10-year increase in maternal age was associated with a 38% increase in the odds ratio for autism (odds ratio = 1.38, 95% confidence interval: 1.32, 1.44), and a 10-year increase in paternal age was associated with a 22% increase (odds ratio = 1.22, 95% confidence interval: 1.18, 1.26). Maternal and paternal age effects were seen in subgroups defined by race/ethnicity and other covariates and were of greater magnitude among first-born compared with later-born children. Further studies are needed to help clarify the biologic mechanisms involved in the independent association of autism risk with increasing maternal and paternal age.
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