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American Dads Are Getting Older, New Stanford Study Says
New dads sporting a few more gray hairs than in years past (CCSS Level: Grade 9, Words: 446)
Aug 31, 2017 Style & Living

American fathers keep getting older, raising the prospect of greater economic and emotional security for U.S. families, but also the possibility of increased birth defects, according to new research from Stanford University's School of Medicine. The school conducted a computational analysis of nearly 170 million births over four decades from the National Vital Statistics System.

The average age of fathers of newborns in the United States has climbed by 3.5 years over the past four decades, growing from 27.4 years in 1972 to nearly 31 years by 2015, said the study - the nation's most detailed analysis ever of paternal age. The percentage of births to fathers older than 40 has more than doubled from about 4 percent in 1972, to 9 percent in 2015. The share of fathers who were over age 50 almost doubled too, up from 0.5 percent to 0.9 percent.

While some celebrity fathers get headlines - actor Steve Martin became a first-time dad at age 67 and Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones just welcomed his eight child at the age of 73 - the trend among dads has received less study.

Much less research has explored the changing demographics of American fathers, according to senior research Dr. Michael Eisenberg. "I think it's important for us to pay attention to these demographic shifts and what their implications could be for society, " said Eisenberg, an assistant professor at Stanford University in California.

On one hand, he said, older fathers are slightly more likely to have kids affected by certain health conditions, such as autism and schizophrenia. Plus, couples who wait to start a family will likely have fewer kids, Eisenberg noted. And that could mean a shrinking pool of working people supporting older, retired Americans.

The ageing of U.S. parents also has potential benefits, though. Older dads, Eisenberg said, tend to have better jobs, more stability, and be more involved in their children's lives. "It's true that men who are more-educated and in stable relationships tend to become fathers relatively later. And from a psychological perspective, older parents are likely to be more mature and less impulsive in their behaviours." said Richard Gallagher, an associate professor of child and adolescent psychiatry in New York City.

There's no expiration date for men fathering a child. Unlike women, men don't hit menopause - the time in a woman's life when her fertility ends - so they can continue to have children into their later years. The oldest dad recorded in the Stanford study was 88 years old.

It is also worth noting that women are also delaying pregnancy due to educational and career goals, as well as greater access to contraception.

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