Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type




There is evidence that both maternal and paternal age may be risk factors for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in offspring. The general literature seems to indicate increased risk for ASD with advanced maternal and paternal age. However, the mechanisms that underlie these associations is unclear. The present study sought to investigate the association between maternal and paternal age and ASD classification in an at-risk sample of young children (37 months of age and younger) enrolled in an early intervention program. Potential covariates including sex, race and/or ethnicity, birth weight, and birth order were also considered. Results indicated that male gender and NOS race/ethnicity increased risk for ASD classification, while White race/ethnicity and very low birth weight increased risk. When covariates were controlled for, linear relationships between parental age and ASD classification were found. Specifically, children with younger mothers were at increased risk for ASD. Conversely, advanced paternal age was found to increase likelihood of ASD classification. Maternal and paternal age were not found to be significantly related to severity of ASD symptoms across social communication and interaction or restricted and repetitive behaviors and interests; however, first born children were more likely to have fewer parent-reported social difficulties. Implications of these results as well as future directions for research are discussed.



Committee Chair

Matson, Johnny

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