Old Dads Are the New Old Moms

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Photo: Zack Seckler/Corbis

The bad news is that the New Republic has taken up the Atlantic’s mantle of panic-attack-inducing cover stories about parenthood, careers, and mating. This one suggests that the economy-driven drop in fertility and feminist achievement of postponed parenthood amount to a “natural experiment” that will produce a generation that is “phenotypically and biochemically different” than any other before it. And not in an X-Men kind of way. This stressed-out bunch will have a higher incidence of Asperger’s and autism and their old parents will die while they still need them. As if having to solve our global climate change weren’t bad enough. The good news is that, for once, this trend is by no means the fault of women exclusively.

Although society tends to judge older moms more harshly than older dads (cf: all the women in this article vs. Larry King, Robert De Niro, Rod Stewart), writer Judith Shulavitz expands on earlier reports that the male biological clock has an equal impact on fertility and the health of offspring. As it turns out, 35 years old isn't just the fertility cliff for women: A 36-year-old man is twice as likely as a 20-year-old to pass spontaneous genetic mutations on to his children — like dwarfism, Marfan and Apert syndromes — and older dads have been linked with schizophrenia and the rise of autism. (But will they hallucinate dancing babies now?)

As far as silver linings go: Some people now think autism is an advantage in some fields, and maybe now that men and women are equally fertility anxious we can get a group rate on sperm- and egg-freezing.