Don't be afraid of being an older father. Your kids may end up with some serious benefits.
According to CNN, the results of a study published last week in Translational Psychology reveal that older fathers (over 35) tend to have “geeky” sons. I read the headline and thought, “Awesome! Geeks are so cool now that scientists are trying to figure out how they’re made. My whole childhood is vindicated! Geeks rule!”
But my elation quickly faded when I read how “geek” is defined:
“Geek” is typically an umbrella term for people who tend to be socially awkward and overly intellectual, the study said.
Huh. Well, that’s kind of accurate … in the most negative way possible. The rest of the CNN article reads like an extended apology for having to report to older fathers that their children might be geeky, which is annoying, since I myself am geeky and am striving to raise little geeks.
So I decided to read the study itself, where I found that CNN had cherry-picked the most negative phrase possible out of a parenthetical notation that is entirely unrelated to the study’s premise.
Not cool, CNN.
Because so much research has been done on advanced paternal age increasing a child’s risk for conditions like autism and schizophrenia, older fathers have been increasingly discouraged from having children. But there is a possible genetic advantage to advanced paternal age as well, which has been suggested by evolutionary and psychological research. This study set out to explore that advantage:
We defined such advantage as educational success, which is positively associated with future socioeconomic status. We hypothesized that high IQ, strong focus on the subject of interest and little concern about “fitting in” will be associated with such success. Although these traits are continuously distributed in the population, they cluster together in so-called “geeks.” We used these measures to compute a “geek index” (GI), and showed it to be strongly predictive of future academic attainment, beyond the independent contribution of the individual traits.
Got that? The “geek index” measures skills associated with future success in life — namely, academic and socioeconomic achievement. The study found that advanced paternal age is associated with sons who have a higher geek index score. They are more likely to be intelligent, talented, and unconcerned with popularity. This is the first time that having an older father has been shown to have any advantages whatsoever, so this is pretty much a landmark study.
And there’s no doubt about it — being a geek is absolutely an advantage, but that advantage is no longer limited to academic success. I’m not sure where CNN has been for the last decade, but geeks have taken over culture and are shaping the new millennium. In a hilarious reversal, mainstream culture is now racing to catch up with geekdom. Even fitness enthusiasts (jocks, in Breakfast Club terms) have adopted that geekiest of gatherings, the con. (It’s no Comic-con, but it’s adorable anyway.)
I don’t know about you, but I’d be thrilled if my kids grew up to be geeks. Yeah, maybe that means they’ll be socially awkward in the school cafeteria, but the beauty of being geeky means they won’t care. Not about popularity, at least — they’ll save their energy for things that matter.
So don’t worry about having kids later in life, dads — you could be setting them up for life-long success. You might want to start saving for Comic-con instead of college now, though — scholarships are easy for geeks, but those tickets aren’t cheap.