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Seminar Series: Parental Age and Cognitive Disability Among Children in the United States

Philip N. Cohen, Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Maryland
When Dec 10, 2012
from 12:00 PM to 01:00 PM
Where 0124B Cole Student Activities Building
Contact Name
Contact Phone 301-405-6403
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About the Talk

Recent attention has focused on children's disabilities that may result from de novo mutations occurring in men's sperm as they age, increasing the risk of such conditions as autism spectrum disorders and schizophrenia. But there are many possible mechanisms for an association between parental age and children’s cognitive disabilities. The objective of this study was to assess the relationship between children's cognitive disability and parents’ age at birth. I conducted an analysis of data from the 2008-2010 American Community Survey for children aged 5 to 11 living with married parents, estimating cognitive disability rates by parents’ age at birth, controlling for other demographic characteristics. Results show that cognitive disability rates according to parental age ranged from 0.8% to 6.8%, with an overall rate of 2.3%. Rates were much more strongly related to mothers’ age at birth than to fathers’ age at birth. The odds of cognitive disability were highest for children whose mothers were age 45 or higher at the time of their birth (odds ratios about 2.5 relative to age 30-34) and lowest for those born to mothers in their early 30s. Although mothers’ age had similar effects on boys and girls, fathers’ age was only associated with the odds of boys’ cognitive disability, once demographic controls were added. These results demonstrate that overall risks are much more strongly associated with mothers’ age at birth, consistent with the effects of mothers’ health at birth on their children. However, the effect of fathers’ age on boy’s cognitive disabilities also is consistent with recent research on autism and schizophrenia, which are more common among boys.

About the Speaker

Philip Cohen

Philip Cohen, Professor of Sociology, has a long-standing research interest in the area of Gender, Family, and Social Change. In particular, he has published extensively on the gender division of labor within families, and between men and women outside of families. In addition to the substantive aspects of this research, he has maintained a strong interest in measurement issues in the area of household and family structure, which has included participating in Counting Couples research conferences at NICHD and consulting with the U.S. Census Bureau on household measurement issues, as well as publishing in demography and sociology journals on these questions.

Visit Professor Cohen's web page

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