Men who have children later in life are more likely to have “geekier” sons, a new study has revealed. And by geek they mean showing traits that include higher IQ, ambition, focus, and caring less about “fitting in”, which frankly are all desirable qualities. Perhaps geeks really will inherit the Earth.
The British and US researchers were studying 15,000 sets of UK-based twins as part of the Twins Early Development Study, one of the largest studies on how genes and environment shape our development, when they made their discovery, which is published in Translational Psychology.
At age 12, they got the twins to complete an online test that measured “geek-like” traits such as non-verbal IQ, ability to focus on a subject, and social aloofness. The researchers then quizzed their parents about the twins’ attitude towards how they are perceived by their peers and whether they have interests that take up the majority of their time.
From this information, the researchers created a Geek Index to score them on (we’re not even joking, this is real science, people), and this was when they discovered that sons with older fathers were more likely to score higher on the scale.
The effect was consistent when they controlled for the parents' social/economic status, qualifications, and employment. The age of the children’s mothers didn’t seem to have an effect and the daughters appeared to be immune.
For a father aged 25 or younger, the average score was 39.6. For those with fathers between 35 and 44 years, the score went up to 41, and those with fathers 50 or older jumped to 57. As the twins aged, the researchers followed their school records and found those with fathers aged 50+ were 32 percent more likely to achieve two A or A* grade GCSEs, particularly in STEM subjects.
The researcher calculated that 57 percent of the geek index score was inherited, suggesting that DNA and environment play an almost equal part in how “geeky” someone turns out.
Reasons for the correlation included career-focused men taking longer to start a family and pass on those “geeky” traits, mutations in older sperm, or older fathers having a better socioeconomic status than younger fathers, thus their children having access to better education or more stimulus.
The researchers weren’t sure why the effect is stronger in boys than girls. “Maybe we aren’t measuring geekiness properly. They may be geeky in a different way to boys,” first author Dr Magdalena Janecka admitted.
They did point out that this was good news for older fathers, as older parenting comes with more risks, such as children developing autism. The researchers said their findings had implications for further understanding and research into the links between parental age, autism, and these traits apparently found in geeks.