Delayed Fatherhood And Autism

by Frost on June 3, 2013

Athlone has a fine article up at Return of Kings today, The Myth of The Male Biological Clock. Among his conclusions:

“The truth is that while men do indeed have reproductive limitations, these limitations are fewer in number and of decidedly inferior severity relative to their female counterparts. The male of the species is not ageless, but his reproductive capacity is better suited for advanced age.”

The article is a response to some recent feminist bean-flicking over the suggestion that men must contend with their biological clocks just as much as women, or suffer the indignity of fathering autistic children.

Autism is an interesting phenomenon. Two books that I recommend on this subject are Thomas Sowell’s (yes, that Thomas Sowell) Late-Talking Children and Tyler Cowen’s (Yes, that Tyler Cowen) Create Your Own Economy. To grossly oversimplify, it appears that clinical autism results from the same gene complexes that, in their less extreme form, result in introversion, a fascination with structure, and spatial reasoning skills. A genetic propensity for autism, like sickle-cell anemia, confers benefits to mild cases despite being maladaptive in its extreme form. Schizophrenia and Manic-Depression have been similarly linked to superior cognitive abilities, and it stands to reason that genes for any mental illness with a genetic component must confer some benefit, whether we understand it or not.

But back to autism. Based on observational studies, men who father children later in life have a slightly higher risk of having autistic children. The risk is small enough that it’s worth ignoring, and I suspect the real story is even kinder to men, such as myself, who plan to delay fatherhood into their late 30s and 40s.

Consider the sort of man who reproduces early in life: Good old Billy Joe, captain of the West Side High football team, drives his pa’s 2003 Ford F-150 ever since pa got a new one and gave the old truck to Billy Joe for his 17th birthday. Ladies love Billy Joe and he has four kids by three comely lasses before he turns 22, at which point he starts working at the sheet metal factory for a few years before it closes down (Thanks Obama!) and spends the rest of his life on long-term disability. Billy Joe – and his Dalit analog, DeAndre the Gangbanger, who planted a few seeds in a few baby mamas before getting shanked in prison – peak early, reproductively speaking.

From Athlone’s article:

“Mark Daly, a geneticist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston who studies autism, says that increasing paternal age is unlikely to account for all of the rise in autism prevalence. He notes that autism is highly heritable, but that most cases are not caused by a single new mutation — so there must be predisposing factors that are inherited from parents but are distinct from the new mutations occurring in sperm.”

Billy Joe and DeAndre are, to put it mildly, not likely to pass on the gene complexes responsible for Autism.

But consider the sort of man – Wendell Wallflower, say – who reproduces later in life. Wendel is a shy, bookish fellow in high school. In college, he is ignored by the fairer sex and confined to male-dominated engineering and computer science classes. In early adulthood, he is completely baffled by the ease with which men simpler than him can chat up women in social situations.

Wendell is the sort of man who, while not clinically autistic, certainly possesses a few of the relevant gene complexes. As a result he is more likely to reproduce later in life, after an adulthood spent acquiring resources and becoming the sort of stable provider that women in their mid-thirties eventually realize isn’t such a bad wagon to hitch their star to. Wendell is more likely to have autistic children, because he possesses more of the genes that cause autism. Those same genes push Wendell into a long-term, K-selected reproductive strategy. Delayed fatherhood doesn’t cause autism, mild autism causes delayed fatherhood.

And even if I’m wrong, and delayed fatherhood actually does cause autism in some cases, it probably also causes mild autism (i.e. the ability to earn a living in the digital economy) in many more. Personally, I would rather have a bright but nerdy son and give him a pair of boxing gloves and copy of Mystery Method on his twelfth birthday, than a socially savvy but barely literate meathead.

So my conclusion is even more optimistic than Athlone’s: There are few downsides to taking your sweet time at the daunting task of finding a decent wife from the hypergamous swamps of the modern sexual marketplace. Media-hyped fear of a correlation between delayed fatherhood and Autism is not one of them. You may now continue spending your twenties and early thirties honing your body and mind into a deadly weapon, prioritizing MOB, and generally living your life free of fear that the male biological clock is anything but a myth.

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  • TempestTcup

    Maybe a little bit of both? My husband & I are both INTJ with high scores on the Autism Spectrum Quotient (mine is 27, “normal” is ~16 & Aspergers is ~35) and we are both late-in-life younger children in our families.

    Since introverts tend to hang with other introverts, most of our friends are also introverted & a lot of them are also results of late-in-life pregnancies. Some I don’t know about, of course.

    Anyway, very interesting post!

  • kleyau

    That’s the most cognizant explanation of older fathers and autism I’ve read.

    Now the only concern is physical fitness and the ability to play with your children.

  • jose

    First i would like to say that this article really hit me! Being an introvert when i was younger i tended to my books, kept to myself and enjoyed the time i can be alone with my thoughts. I displayed a lot of the symptoms you expressed above and now i understand why.
    You see i have a 5 year old daughter who is a high-functioning autistic. I often wondered why she was born that way but then i noticed that she does a lot of the same things i did when i was that age.
    She is extremely bright as she could use a computer better than most adults i know. Her issue is more about speech which she is getting the proper therapy. Although she is a handful at times i would never trade her for anything in this world. With proper guidance she will grow up and be a productive member of society. Again thank for this great information!

  • Koanic


  • Koanic

    The relevant info missing from this is that aspie/autism is meliorable or curable with a proper paleo diet. Low plant content is key. Low carb is not. Yogurt is a way to get carbs without plants.

    I will have a product on how to do this eventually.

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  • hardly

    I can’t believe you went an entire post about Autism without discussing Simon Baron Cohen. He runs the Autism center at Cambridge.

    The above mentioned, related to Borat, has very strong research indicating that autism is an extreme “male brain” syndrome. Male brains in his book are wired to systemizing, female brains for empathizing. When two people with “male” brains mate, their kids have a higher chance of being autistic. This is called the assortative mating hypothesis, and the modern world makes it easier for “similar” people to come together and marry. In the past you would marry whoever was nearby or whoever your parents recommended. Now one geek always wants another geek in his life.

    His research includes evidence that autism rates are higher in tech clusters in Europe and Silicon valley, where systemizing minds congregate.

    Needless to say his research infuriates feminists, and mothers of females with autism. But I very very strongly believe he is on to the truth (I am a trainee neurologist with a 32 on his ASQ scale). He is one of us, an HBDer.

    He believes one reason for the difference in brains may have to do with prenatal testosterone exposure in the womb, and he is doing some sort of study on amniotic fluid to see if this is true.

    He also links autism and psychopathy as being conditions of low empathy. But there are some important distinctions between the two, and his latest book defines “evil” as basically being the lack of empathy of the sort seen in psychopathy.

    When you read his research, you will realize that all this silly “Thal gene” stuff promoted by people like koanic soul is just Asperger’s syndrome by another name. And it is more prevalent in the modern West because of assortative mating and selection for systemizing IQ.

    I agree with your thoughts about why older fathers get autistic kids more. And this risk should fall off with really old fathers like Hugh hefner or salman rushdie or Jack nicholson – since if some guy is making babies at that age, he is likely to be a sexually supercharged alpha male, not an aspie nerd. So this older father correlation would hold true until around age 40 or 45, then suddenly fall off.

    • Koanic

      “all this silly “Thal gene” stuff promoted by people like koanic soul is just Asperger’s syndrome by another name.”

      Heh, nope. Faces are different. There’s some overlap, but nowhere near complete. But it’s good that you’re seeing the Matrix on the Asperger’s issue, or at least most of it. I’ll have an interesting post coming on the maleness of brain spectrum and tradeoffs. Someday.

  • Contemplationist

    Wishful thinking don’t make it so.

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