Are you a bit of a geek? You might have your dad to thank for that. According to a new study, older dads have sons who may be geekier than their peers.
But how do you define geekiness? For this study, researchers from King's College in London and New York's Seaver Autism Center for Research define it as having a high IQ, an intense focus on subjects of interest and a tendency to be socially aloof.
With this definition as their guide, the researchers then tested 15,000 British twins, rating them on their level of geekiness according to their non-verbal IQ scores at age 12 as well as their own and their parents' assessments of their levels of focus and their interest in social situations.
The results, published recently in the journal Translational Psychiatry, showed that children of older fathers scored higher on the "geek index" than children whose fathers were younger. Kids who were born when their dads were 25 or younger had an average score of 39.6 on the scale, but for kids whose dads were in the 35 to 44 range when they were born, the geekiness score averaged 41. It was closer to 47 for kids whose dads were 50 or over when they were born.
While the researchers noted the correlation, they have no idea what might make the children of older fathers more likely to be "geeks." It could be that men who delay parenting are themselves more intensely focused on their careers and socially aloof, thus they are simply passing these genes along to their children. It could also be that older men are more economically established and able than younger dads to offer more learning experiences for their children.
The geekiness effect was far more pronounced in boys than in girls. This is interesting because autism — a condition which has also been linked to the age of a child's father — is also more likely to occur in boys than in girls. And many of the traits the researchers defined as "geeky" could also be seen in children who are autistic.
From that perspective, this study may help give researchers a better understanding for the development of autism and the traits that, in small doses, help kids succeed in school but in larger doses hinder their performance.