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Dev Psychopathol. 2012 Aug;24(3):739-53. doi: 10.1017/S095457941200034X.

Advancing paternal age and offspring violent offending: a sibling-comparison study.

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Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Karolinska Institutet, P.O. Box 281, Stockholm 171 77, Sweden.


Children born to older fathers are at higher risk to develop severe psychopathology (e.g., schizophrenia and bipolar disorder), possibly because of increased de novo mutations during spermatogenesis with older paternal age. Because severe psychopathology is correlated with antisocial behavior, we examined possible associations between advancing paternal age and offspring violent offending. Interlinked Swedish national registers provided information on fathers' age at childbirth and violent criminal convictions in all offspring born from 1958 to 1979 (N = 2,359,921). We used ever committing a violent crime and number of violent crimes as indices of violent offending. The data included information on multiple levels; we compared differentially exposed siblings in within-family analyses to rigorously test causal influences. In the entire population, advancing paternal age predicted offspring violent crime according to both indices. Congruent with a causal effect, this association remained for rates of violent crime in within-family analyses. However, in within-family analyses, we found no association with ever committing a violent crime, suggesting that factors shared by siblings (genes and environment) confounded this association. Life-course persistent criminality has been proposed to have a partly biological etiology; our results agree with a stronger biological effect (i.e., de novo mutations) on persistent violent offending.

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