The effect of paternal age on offspring intelligence and personality when controlling for paternal trait level

The effect of paternal age on offspring intelligence and personality when controlling for paternal trait level

Ruben C. Arslan, Lars Penke, Wendy Johnson, William G. Iacono, Matt McGue
(Submitted on 18 Sep 2013)

Paternal age at conception has been found to predict the number of new genetic mutations. We examined the effect of father’s age at birth on offspring intelligence, head circumference and personality traits. Using the Minnesota Twin Family Study sample we tested paternal age effects while controlling for parents’ trait levels measured with the same precision as offspring’s. From evolutionary genetic considerations we predicted a negative effect of paternal age on offspring intelligence, but not on other traits. Controlling for parental IQ had the effect of turning a positive-zero order association negative. We found paternal age effects on offspring IQ and MPQ Absorption, but they were not robustly significant, nor replicable with additional covariates. No other noteworthy effects were found. Parents’ intelligence and personality correlated with their ages at twin birth, which may have obscured a small negative effect of advanced paternal age (< 1% of variance explained) on intelligence. We discuss future avenues for studies of paternal age effects and suggest that stronger research designs are needed to rule out confounding factors involving birth order and the Flynn effect.

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