If you're waiting until you're older to have children, that could be a smart move, according to a new study. If you're a man, that is.
Research conducted in the UK and published this week in the journal Translational Psychiatry found that older fathers were more likely to have sons who exhibited high levels of "geekiness," a quality that, thanks to Silicon Valley, continues to be in high professional demand and could one day help your kiddo rake in the big bucks.
So how exactly do you determine if junior is "geeky"? Sure, there's the vibe you get when talking to a hoodie-wearing, jargon-loving, 22-year-old software engineer. But these researchers got specific, defining the trait as a combination of intelligence, focus and lack of concern with fitting in, which they argued could help children succeed later on in life. From there they created a "geek index" that took into account a child's nonverbal IQ at age 12, as well as parental reports of focus and social aloofness, and created a "geek index." Then they analyzed data from a large-scale longitudinal study of twins from early childhood through adolescence and assigned a geek score to 12,468 of the children it tracked.
The researchers controlled for the mother's age, as well as the socioeconomic and employment status of both parents and found that sons born to fathers younger than 25 had a geek index of 39.6, while those born to fathers in their late 30s weighed in at 41.1. The increase in "geekiness" appeared to be more dramatic when men produced sons after the age of 45; fathers older than 50 had sons with a score of 46.6. The "geekier" sons went on to demonstrate stronger academic performance than their peers, especially in STEM subjects, which could help the snag the highly coveted tech internships and super lucrative positions that succeed them, later on in life.
For daughters of older fathers, the correlation appeared to be weaker, and the age of the mothers did not appear to have an effect. (There is, however, other evidence to suggest that children of older mothers do gain cognitive advantages.)
Of course, there are downsides to delaying parenthood, too — not least, as the study noted, an increased risk of adverse outcomes like autism and schizophrenia. But the research lends some compelling support to the idea that parents who are more advanced in their careers and more socioeconomically secure, as older fathers tend to be, are better positioned to provide their children with a stronger education and all-around enriching environment. "We have known for a while about the negative consequences of advanced paternal age," Dr Magdalena Janecka, the study's lead author said in a press release. "But now we have shown that these children may also go on to have better educational and career prospects."
Still, deciding when to become a parent really comes down to what makes logistical sense and feels emotionally right to your and your partner. And whenever you decide to take the plunge, make you've got a solid baby budget.