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Health risks aside, do older parents make better parents?

Father and son: Is older better?

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Science tells us there are greater risks of health complications the longer people wait to have children. But is the wait worth it because older parents make better parents?

Writer William Sutcliffe argues that they do. In an article in The Guardian, Mr. Sutcliffe makes the case for delaying fatherhood, claiming that older fathers are "calmer, more patient, less obsessed with personal ambitions," and their lifestyles are "less frenetic."

His piece is a response to a study published in the journal Nature last week that found that men in their 30s and beyond were more likely than their younger counterparts to pass on genetic mutations that cause autism and schizophrenia. The findings were evidence that women aren't the only ones who need to consider their ticking biological clock.

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As a 41-year-old father of three, Mr. Sutcliffe says his own experience suggests delaying fatherhood makes men more suitable as parents. He says he's now a better parent than he was nine years ago when he had his first child.

"We older fathers may be passing on slightly lower quality genetic material, but where it really counts, in the area of nurture, fortysomethings are likely to do a far better job than twentysomethings," he says.

Could Mr. Sutcliffe be right? Last year, an international study presented at the Royal College of Paediatrics at the University of Warwick suggested there's merit to his argument when it applies to women. That study found older mothers, aged 40 and over, were better parents, according to The Independent. Regardless of economic background, children of older women were less likely to be injured, less likely to be admitted to hospital and more likely to have all their immunizations. (They did, however, tend to be slightly overweight.)

"It may be more difficult to have children late but once they have them, older mothers do fantastically," pediatrician Alastair Sutcliffe said when the study was presented.

Does your age affect how well you parent?

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About the Author

Wency Leung is a general assignment reporter for the Life section. Before joining The Globe in early 2010, she has worked as a reporter in Vancouver, Prague, and Phnom Penh. More

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