Younger or older parental age and risk of suicidality, premature death, psychiatric illness, and criminality in offspring

Pearl Mok, Sussie Antonsen, Carsten Bøcker Pedersen, Roger Webb

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Younger or older parental age has been linked with a range of adverse offspring endpoints. We investigated associations between parental age and nine adverse offspring outcomes in three correlated domains: (i) Premature death: suicide, unnatural death, natural death; (ii) Psychiatric morbidity: any mental illness, suicide attempt, substance misuse; (iii) Criminality: violent offending, imprisonment, driving whilst intoxicated.
Persons born in Denmark 1966–1996 were followed from their 15th until 40th birthday or December 2011 (N=1,793,681). Incidence rate ratios were estimated.
Offspring of teenage mothers had the greatest risks for all nine adverse outcomes, especially for imprisonment, violent offending, substance misuse, and attempted suicide. Teenage fatherhood was also associated with elevated risks for offspring adverse psychiatric and criminality outcomes, but not premature mortality (at ages 15–39 years). For the psychiatric and criminality outcomes there was a U-shape trend linked with paternal age, but risks for premature mortality tended to increase with rising paternal age. On the contrary, maternal age 30 years and over was not linked with raised risks for any of the outcomes examined.
Parental links are based on legal and not biological relationships.
The substantially elevated risks linked with teenage motherhood for a variety of poor offspring outcomes is a concern for clinicians and policymakers. The associations observed across such a wide array of adverse outcomes also suggest that multiple causal mechanisms may be implicated.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Early online date2 Oct 2016
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2017


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