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May 25th, 2009
11:01 AM ET

Men have a biological clock?

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="CNN's Jason Carroll reports on a recent study that suggests men have their own biological clock."]

It has been happening for centuries – an older man taking a younger bride. Popular with kings in earlier times, in this day it is not uncommon with Hollywood royalty.

A 20-something-year-old I met tried to sum up the thinking on the male biological clock, saying “We don't have to deal with the whole, you know, estrogen issues. So men keep on pumping it out but women – they can't.”

The truth is there may be a male biological clock – and it’s ticking.

The headline from a recent study: Older fathers may mean lower IQs in their children.

Researchers found children born to 50-year-old fathers scored slightly lower on intelligence tests than children of a 20-year-old father, regardless of the mother's age. The researchers analyzed data from more than 33-thousand American children. The study's outcome is a hot topic in the blogosphere.

“I would hope that somehow it equalizes relationships of sexes,” says Lisa Belkin of the New York Times.

Belkin blogged about the study and wrote an essay titled "Your Old Man," for the New York Times. The response, she says, has been overwhelming.

“The men are getting really angry and the women are a little too gleeful… There were just hundreds and hundreds of people and you could just divide them into two categories based on gender,” says Belkin.

Now there is a new sense of urgency with some men.

Dr. Harry Fisch is a professor of urology. He reviewed the study and cautioned more testing needs to be done because the study did not follow children's intellectual development beyond age seven.

“We can't say that men of a certain age – their children won't be as smart. But what we’re seeing are real indications, we're seeing real clues that as men get older there are problems.”

I spoke to one expecting couple in their late 30's who were taking a measured outlook.

“We're having our first. If he is a little less intelligent maybe the world doesn't need smarter people, doesn't need more gifted people just deeper people. So hopefully he will be a deep person,” says Peter Trautman.

While the study found a six point difference in intelligence test scores between the children of a 50-year-old father and a 20-year-old, the difference in those scores dropped to about two points when socio-economic factors were taken into account.

Filed under: Health
soundoff (166 Responses)
  1. Les

    One quarter to one third of all schizophrenia, a great deal of autism and much non-familial bipolar disorder is due to older paternal age. Men have a genetic biological clock. Some of their offspring are very unlucky.

    May 25, 2009 at 8:18 pm |

    As a special education teacher I have noticed through the years that many of my students were born to older parents. I always wondered if there was a connection. I have witnessed more problems when BOTH parents were older, especially higher rates of autism.

    May 25, 2009 at 8:15 pm |
  3. root

    maybe women who have families with older men are less intellegence and the father has nothing to do with it?

    May 25, 2009 at 8:15 pm |
  4. B. Knowles

    Fortunately, Larry King has the cash to afford private schooling.

    May 25, 2009 at 8:06 pm |
  5. 1st time daddy @ 50

    I had my first child @ 50 years of age. Her mother is 16 years my junior. I have since had a son @ age 53, I stayed @ home to rear my children while the ex(now) went to work. My children are bright. It was because of me that my children are smart. I taught them and use every day and oppurtunity to learn and grow, me included. Thank the universe I reared them, because if their mother would have...This study has no basis, we all know scientists can jumble the #s any way they want their study to show, then they can get more funding.

    May 25, 2009 at 8:05 pm |
  6. MacGirl1985

    There has also been a link between older fathers having a higher percentile of children with autism compared to younger fathers.

    A 2006 study found that children of 40-year-old to 49-year-old dads are nearly six times more likely to have autism than children of men under 30, regardless of the mother's age.

    So it does not surprise me that fathers age might have other effects.

    May 25, 2009 at 8:03 pm |
  7. sadsociety

    The sad truth remains that even if there were a flawless argument uncovered tomorrow that men over a certain age asuredly produced children with multiple heads and tails, there would still be insecure, ignorant women willing to lay in bed with men who refuse to accept and/or disregard the fact that their money veils their past-ripe appearance. Power bought out nature a long time ago.

    May 25, 2009 at 8:00 pm |
  8. superman

    who makes these studies anyways?
    we have school where people can attain intelligence.

    Anyways a guy how old he is can still get a young women pregnant. its how reproductive organs work.

    May 25, 2009 at 7:53 pm |
  9. david

    Interesting. I'm 30 and my biological mother and father are well into their 70's. I think I turned out pretty darn good with a good education and decent job :).

    May 25, 2009 at 7:53 pm |
  10. Tim

    Who cares if my kid is dumb? I won't have to pay for college and my wife will be smokin' hot!

    May 25, 2009 at 7:48 pm |
  11. James

    All of this bickering, yet I haven't seen anyone question the very foundation of the premise: That IQ is a meaningful measure of, or can accurately define a person's intelligence.

    The very fact that so many people are debating this issue on both sides, while assuming that IQ measurements, unless they fall well outside of norms, are actually accurate barometers of intelligence.

    It's that fact that scares me the most about this article, and the subsequent comments. The science is clearly flawed, and meaningless without the IQ question, but it's also a meaningless study due to the IQ premise alone. In fact, I find it shocking that research money is being granted for such poor quality experiments.

    May 25, 2009 at 7:48 pm |
  12. Lance

    My father was 53 when my younger brother was born. My younger brother finished second in his class at Georgetown and is now in grad school at Harvard.

    May 25, 2009 at 7:46 pm |
  13. Joke

    I'd much rather see a 50 year old financially secure father than a 16 year old welfare mom.

    May 25, 2009 at 7:42 pm |
  14. person

    Also add for the fact that many of these old men have young brides because they are rich and for that reason do not need children to provide for them later on, and do not add any pressure.

    May 25, 2009 at 7:40 pm |
  15. HNLgirl

    My 37-yr-old bf doesn't know about this study, but his clock ticks louder than mine (I'm 31).

    May 25, 2009 at 7:40 pm |
  16. James

    While many others have effectively highlighted the glaring flaws of this study, it does provide evidence for something else: Women are obviously not that good at science.

    Females seem to love pseudoscience as long as it offers an endorphin release, or some other feel good social maximizer, e.g., Oprah.

    In fact, this article embodies the shallow, pseudoscience stylings of Oprah's very own show.

    May 25, 2009 at 7:38 pm |
  17. Robert

    "We are always taught to never mess with someone YEARS older than us"

    No. We are taught not to mess with children. If the person is not a child, what does age matter? My significant other is 13 years older than me, we've been together for 19 years, since I was 20. He's not a perv. He's an incredible guy.

    May 25, 2009 at 7:33 pm |
  18. Jonathan Beachy

    One of my most admired friends was born when her dad was 69, and his dad was over 60 when he was born. One day she said to me, "If my grandfather was alive today he would be 150!" She graduated from Harvard some time ago... What on earth could she have achieved if her dad's and granddad's gene's weren't so old when her conception wheels started turning! There are studies, and there are studies....

    May 25, 2009 at 7:31 pm |
  19. Steve

    This is just another nature vs. nurture argument.

    Everyone knows a 50 year old father is different from a 20 year old father in parenting. My guess is a 50 year old father is more mellowed out and doesn't push their child as much.

    I love the 2 pt difference when taking into socio-economic factors. ..Classic.

    May 25, 2009 at 7:29 pm |
  20. Robert

    I'm a gay man, does that mean that I can keep having sex after 50?

    May 25, 2009 at 7:29 pm |
  21. maxie

    The world seemed to do just fine before people started making a living from doing inane studies. Get a real job.

    May 25, 2009 at 7:27 pm |
  22. Aaron Mouille

    If your parent is an alcoholic then chances are you'll be,if one of them is a fiend then chance are you could be,so, if one of your parents like's to sleep with people decades younger than them,then maybe you'll be a child molester.Just a thought.

    Personally I think women who sleep with old farts are sick,and vice versa.It's generally always about money and very rarely about love anyways.Maybe the study should focus on the idiot women that sleep with the old fools.This study just reminds me how sick our society is.We are always taught to never mess with someone YEARS older than us,but once we get to be 18 that goes out the window.Why?10 years older is 10 years older.20 years older is 20 years older.Either way you're just a perv in my book.Find someone your own age or close for God's sake..

    May 25, 2009 at 7:26 pm |
  23. George

    “The men are getting really angry and the women are a little too gleeful… There were just hundreds and hundreds of people and you could just divide them into two categories based on gender,” says Belkin.

    Sorry, but as a 53 year old man, the possibility of a 2 point IQ drop in any of my potential future offspring does not make me the least bit angry. I don't know any other men who I think this "2 points" will make angry, either. It's 2 points, not 20 points. Hmm, I think maybe that "making men really angry" is probably some wishful thinking on the part of Lisa Belkin and some other women who may already be angry and jealous that men can procreate our entire lives, while women cannot. Sorry, Lisa, but that's just the way it works. Learn to live with it or get counseling. After all, most men have learned to live with the fact that women – on average – outlive men.

    May 25, 2009 at 7:16 pm |
  24. Squigman

    I'm 56, and I'd still like to have children. I guess this makes me stupid in the eyes of many, but I dont like the thought of going through life alone.

    May 25, 2009 at 7:15 pm |
  25. kaius lee

    Let's face it, regardless of the statistics or any finding, doesn't it make sense that older testicles produce inferior sperm cells? It's the law of biology and physics... older organs do not replicate equal quality cells as younger organs. Humans are not designed to reproduce in their later years anyway.... no animals are. The older men who grab young mates should just adopt. This study focuses on IQ of the kids... There is definite potential for other defects as well.

    May 25, 2009 at 7:13 pm |
  26. gambino

    study is false!
    dont read this rubbish.

    May 25, 2009 at 7:12 pm |
  27. John

    I'm a 47 year old man who married a smart and beautiful 25 year old woman. I'll gladly accept some stupid children for waking up every morning to my beautiful wife!

    May 25, 2009 at 7:05 pm |
  28. Kohlbee Scott

    DUH -
    Having kids with an older man is simply dumb.
    FYI –
    ALL women want old men who chase
    after yonger women to stop.
    It's nasty and perverted.
    Date someone your OWN AGE and stop chasing after us!!!

    May 25, 2009 at 7:01 pm |
  29. Scott Jackson

    Ummm. Did anyone think that the IQ of the WOMEN who are having babies with old men may be slightly lower and therefor their offspring are slightly less intelligent? Men care about one thing after 50: Looks.
    And, my friends, young hot blonds aren't known for their mental prowess.

    May 25, 2009 at 7:01 pm |
  30. Kurt

    Are men over 50 more or less likely to spend time with their children. This might be the deciding factor when determining intelligence.

    May 25, 2009 at 6:52 pm |
  31. Warren

    Poor article, great comments written afterwards. ALERT: The readers of this article are more intelligent than the writer!

    May 25, 2009 at 6:48 pm |
  32. Pacha

    I know a Boeing engineer who has a PhD from an Ivy League school but socially he is a moron and selfish pig. IQ cannot be correlated with common sense. Smart people some time do stupid things. DNA of both men and women gets mutated more as we age. Having children at a younger age simply reduces the chances of passing on mutated genes to children. This IQ test is all nonsense – I don't believe in it at all.

    May 25, 2009 at 6:37 pm |
  33. ASH

    “The men are getting really angry and the women are a little too gleeful"…..seems to sum up the majority of comments...

    May 25, 2009 at 6:36 pm |
  34. lab rat

    i bet these people who are criticizing the study are OLD FARTS in their 50's and 60's (or older) who somehow are still convincing themselves that they are still "in the game"...sorry fellas,NO YOU ARE NOT... YOU just CANNOT compete against 20 something guys...go in front of a mirror right now and say that to yourself about 100, didn't that make u feel better? ok, go get dressed up and off you go to your nightly BINGO with the rest of the gang! ROFL! LMAO!

    May 25, 2009 at 6:32 pm |
  35. BigB

    rejoice all ye women, there's many other Factors, maybe men over 50 die younger and the child was raised by the single mother, so maybe it's the single parent factor. Maybe it's a woman in her 20's is looking for a sugar daddy to take care of her because she's not educated enough to make it alone that she married this 50 year old man to start with. Or maybe she married him for money and cares nothing about raising a educated child. Actually that goes for both the man married for her looks and the woman for money so neither take interest in the child. Maybe it's these women that are gleeful were left my their 50 year old man for a younger woman and they hope for that 2-6 point equalizer. I personally think that a 20 year old father probably is smart than a 50 year old to start with. When I was 40 I could tell my 15yo son was smarter than I was,basically he learned things in the same school I attended on average 6 years earlier, there's much more to learn now than 25 years ago, it's covered years earlier in school. Plus now in my 50s I don't have the energy and time to interact with a child even my grandchildren like I could at age 25. So with these Factors along with many others how can a study like this be useful information?

    May 25, 2009 at 6:32 pm |
  36. NGN

    Aging is a disease. Cure it.

    May 25, 2009 at 6:31 pm |
  37. Joe

    Assuming Belkin is right in her assertion that all men are mad about her column and all women are gleeful, funny that women would be gleeful about information calculated to make men settle down earlier. That doesn't sound like men's biological clock ticking.

    May 25, 2009 at 6:29 pm |
  38. Common Sense

    So, older guys just have to screw dumb young women to make it even. I can live with that – they can't remember where I live~!

    May 25, 2009 at 6:29 pm |
  39. Josh

    I'm not sure if this has been covered in the comments yet, but I was a little thrown by the headline vs. the article of study. Headline suggest biological clocks in men, article covers the intellect of offspring from older men vs. the younger men. I was expecting to see a study on the desire of men to procreate by or at certain times in their lives.

    I agree with Phd about some of the comments made by previous commenters. Even more the comment from "women suck". It has been proven that males do have a desire to fornicate to spread their seed, not just for pleasure. It's also proven that besides dolphins, humans are the only ones to fornicate for pleasure. So it's not just men that want pleasure, women do too.

    Also, I believe that the reasons for the children of younger parents to be more intelligent (not saying its a fact) is due to several factors. Younger parents are fresher to the coming academic studies. They have more energy to assist in the development of the children as they grow.

    To reiterate Phd, more clarification/research could have been used on this article. Also, a wider range of view from some of the commenters would be more appreciated.

    May 25, 2009 at 6:26 pm |
  40. John

    Eienstein's parents were not exceptionally bright,the right genes came
    in to place because his parents were of mixed ancestry,its like trying
    to win the lottery.You are more likely to father a prodigy if you pick a
    mate from the human genome rather than your own race.If we based
    our life on studies we should all be extinct by now.

    May 25, 2009 at 6:25 pm |
  41. toratoratora

    Study may be simply stating some new found facts but the way this article portrays it is logically flawed, too politically correct and too heavy in "female empowerment" character. This study is more of a wake up call for the woman and should question the logic she uses in choosing which man to have children with.
    – if she chooses the older man (probably for financial & emotional security) then beware! Besides isn't 50 yrs a bit too old for a man to father a child anyway? What were you thinking?
    -Couldn't these women find younger men to marry & produce smarter kids? Now this logically contradicts the reason women use to marry older men (finances, security, etc). Besides young women these days are told to postpone marriage and focus on career & financial stability. This is a bit to their detriment because by time these women have established careers (early 30s), chances are their biological clock is ticking and the window of a safe pregnancy is fast closing in; something young men (early 30s) don't really have to deal with either biologically nor from a male desire stand point. These men are just happy enjoying their independence, freedom and lack of serious financial worries that marriage and family bring. I have not even mentioned the risk of divorce, infidelity and related costs. So then women wanting marriage & children are left with fewer young men to choose from which then pressurizes them to accept the older man in marriage!

    May 25, 2009 at 6:21 pm |
  42. Pat

    Sperm from older men causes more serious problems than lower increase in bipolar disorder and autism!

    May 25, 2009 at 6:20 pm |
  43. jspin

    I think I just lost 6 IQ points from reading this article.

    May 25, 2009 at 6:17 pm |
  44. Nips

    Well..I believe womens who marries older men are bit dumb so does their children so its not a problem of mens age.

    May 25, 2009 at 6:13 pm |
  45. Ron, Surprise AZ

    As a offspring from a mans 50 year old sperm years ago, I use to tell people that I thought of myself as smarter than the average human being, at least I thought so before this study. Now they must all think that I am a liar...

    I may never recover…..

    May 25, 2009 at 6:06 pm |
  46. Andre

    Does a man's DNA change after age 50? Seems to me his DNA should be the same.

    May 25, 2009 at 5:49 pm |
  47. Happy in Hollywood

    I am 37 years older than my beautiful 22 year old actress model wifeand I don't care.

    May 25, 2009 at 5:47 pm |
  48. ben

    This is just blatant fearmongering to counter-balance the trend of men not wanting to have kids, and women running out of time.

    May 25, 2009 at 5:46 pm |
  49. David White

    I guess rush limbaugh was the product of a very old father.

    May 25, 2009 at 5:42 pm |
  50. Kat

    All I know is that my father had me at 45, my brothers at 48, 49, and my sister at 54. Bookwise she was the smartest of the bunch. He had the time to spend tutoring her, cause the rest of us were gone! My father is also very intellegent, none of us were slow!

    May 25, 2009 at 5:41 pm |
  51. DJ

    In response to this study WHO REALLY CARES!!??? A couple IQ points is not going to affect anybody. It is the common sense factor that everyone is forgetting about. Something this article has none of. What a waste of money!

    May 25, 2009 at 5:40 pm |
  52. GateKeeper

    I would like to see the study of 50 year old males who proven to be a genius according to an IQ Test..I'm sure the are are more than we want to believe.

    Intelligence and to be phyiscally capablity to run after your YOUNG children if you are over the age of 50 are two different situation .. not to be compared.

    Also, who's to say that the intelligence of children, whether the biological father is 20 or not inherited from the family(paternal or maternal) bloodline? So for instance, great uncle pete(paternal) was a genius, his great nephew who is 40 something can't produce from great uncle pete's bloodline another genius at 40 years of age? Does DNA involve intelligence?

    The study is flawed?..

    May 25, 2009 at 5:40 pm |
  53. JL

    Not only that, but there are studies that indicate a correlation between the age of the father and rates of autism. It's something parents of autistic children don't like to hear... they'd much rather blame things such as vaccines.

    May 25, 2009 at 5:36 pm |
  54. chandra

    It's rather amusing to read some of your comments, guys. While this particular study may have it's flaws, it shouldn't be a shock to you that your sperm starts to go bad over time. That's just common sense. People get old and things just don't work as well as they used to. Bones, joints, eyes, ears, brains, ovaries and yes......... even sperm!

    Regardless of this study's validity, I think I'll probably still use this article to my advantage. My husband and I got married at 19, had our son at 21, had our daughter at 23. I'm definitely going to have to brag to all our older friends that my children are indeed smarter than theirs! 🙂

    May 25, 2009 at 5:35 pm |
  55. tom thumb

    im 69 4th wife is 20 im rich she is pregnant. like young fillys

    May 25, 2009 at 5:31 pm |
  56. PhD

    Just a few comments regarding other responses: some of you need to read the article more than once before making a ignorant comment.

    For example, Peter at 3:11, claims "Nonsense" but asks his first question to which the answer is found in the fifth paragraph; thus his comments are void.

    EW, at 1:24, makes an erroneous comment about the study being useless with a sample size of 33,000 and the SES accounting for 67% of the variance. Well, first of all, EW, the larger the sample size the better, Central Limit Theorem loosely states that the more respondents one has in a random selection, the more the answers resemble a bell-shaped curve; and can then be generalized to an overall population. For a population of men in America (millions) all you would actually need around 1,000 randomly selected respondents; over sampling reduces the effects of sampling error – but this is only good for RANDOM samples, convenience samples are less reliable. (A convenience sample is where one would, say, ask questions to people at a grocery store – it's not random, and one could only generalize to those people who buy groceries during a certain period of time, thereby leaving out all other people who don't).

    Secondly, EW, the comment about SES could be important if we knew about what type analysis they used (Analysis of Variance – ANOVA; Analysis of Co-Variance – ANCOVA; Multiple Regression, etc.) as wellas the types significance tests they conducted. You made an excellent point about the standard deviation, but the article never mentions significance. It mentions, at the end, about differences being separated by "points" but doesn't say if the difference is significant; but one can only trust there was a significant difference, due to the uproar, etc.

    All in all, there are some great comments, but I think the problem is actually the author. In an effort to make the scientific drivel more palpable, he's left out a few key points about the methodology of the study, which readers have obviously keyed in on – questions any researcher worth his/her salt would also inquire.

    A little more clarification or description could have made a difference; I teach a graduate level scientific communication course and these are some of the things we tell students to cover when writing for the public.

    May 25, 2009 at 5:19 pm |
  57. Dan

    You sound fat. And single.

    May 25, 2009 at 5:18 pm |
  58. William

    Ah! Here we go again with putting too much emphasis on a correlation. They do not address cause and effect. The IQ of children is the product of both parents genes. What is more likely is that an older man who would marry a woman young enough to bear children by him probably isn't too bright. The cold, hard truth – the truth you'll never get your husbands and boyfriends to admit to, ladies – is that men don't really care about children, but go along with procreation because it's expected and our women want children. This isn't to say that men don't love their children, but given a choice, most would never have them. No man in his 50's and in his right mind is going to have a baby.

    May 25, 2009 at 5:09 pm |
  59. Rodney

    At 48 I'm not even thinking of having any more children,I'm done having children myself. I certainly welcome grandchildren. I like my freedom therefore I'm with Pooky on this one.

    May 25, 2009 at 5:09 pm |
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