Older fathers: what's behind the trend?

Man holding his new-born baby Men may be waiting until they feel they can properly provide for their children before becoming fathers

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Older fathers are no longer unusual. For the past 10 years, statistics show that nearly two-thirds of babies have been born to fathers aged 30 and over.

Are men taking longer to find their perfect mate - or has austerity just made them more focused and career-minded?

David Kesterton, parenthood and community project manager at the Family Planning Association, says there are a variety of sensible and practical reasons why men are having children later in life.

"There's the economic reason that causes people to delay having children, the desire to focus on careers and the difficulties of buying your own home when young," he says.

But he also speculates that it's to do with the rise in second marriages for men, sometimes with younger women, which can mean becoming a father again at a more advanced age.

And of course we are all feeling healthier and living longer too.

"Forty is the new 30. Both men and women feel they have the energy for parenting later in life," Kesterton says.

Stable family

Elizabeth Duff, senior policy adviser for the parenting charity NCT, agrees that potential parents are now tending to wait until they have the means to cope with bringing a baby into the world.

"This trend may be due to parents waiting until they are best placed to welcome their baby into a financially stable family setting, in addition to fewer teenage mothers, following moves to discourage very early parenthood."

Start Quote

We can't see changes in sperm quality so we suspect there is something happening to his DNA - or he's having less sex.”

End Quote Dr Allan Pacey Sheffield University

When the 2011 figures from the Office of National Statistics are broken down, 29% of fathers were 30-34, 21% were aged 35-39 and 10% aged 40-44. Only 4.6% were 45 years or over.

So much for the grey-haired brigade. The figures suggest that men who become fathers in their 50s and 60s, such as Rod Stewart (66), Sir Paul McCartney (61), Clint Eastwood (66), Frank Skinner (55) and Gordon Brown (55), are still relatively uncommon.

A good thing perhaps, since research shows that men - as well as women - have a biological clock.

While a woman's ability to reproduce greatly reduces after a certain age, which explains why only 0.3% of mothers in 2011 were over the age of 45, men can go on creating children as long as they can have sex.

Yet it is not all good news for the male of the species.

'Lower IQ'

Dr Yacoub Kalaf, consultant in reproductive medicine and surgery at Guy's Hospital, says that research suggests there is an age after which men suffer from reproductive ageing.

"Men over 45 may have offspring which have a higher likelihood of a neuro-cognitive disorders, such as autism and schizophrenia. They could also be expected to have a slightly lower IQ."

He cautions that these health risks are very small and that environmental factors must be taken into account as well. In the end, he says, when to have children is a very personal choice.

"Careers, experience, family - they all dictate when you start having children.

"If the choice is between taking a small risk or not having a child together, the couple will always opt for going for a child."

Scientific studies show that around the age of 40, men also become less fertile.

'Don't wait'

Dr Allan Pacey, senior lecturer in andrology at Sheffield University, says experts do not yet know exactly why.

"We can't see changes in sperm quality so we suspect there is something happening to a man's DNA - or he's having less sex.

"Research suggests older men find it harder to become fathers - and that is probably a sexual function issue.

"In any event, my advice would be for men to have children as young as possible - don't wait until your 50s."

The Family Planning Association runs Speakeasy courses helping parents to communicate with their children about difficult subjects like growing up, relationships and sex.

Although David Kesterton says it is harder to attract fathers to participate, he says older fathers can have a different relationship with their children.

"On the one hand, the older generation fathers are more conservative in what they feel confident talking about - but they also have the perspective of wisdom.

"Younger parents can feel closer to their children, but be more caught up in their pressures."

Whatever your age, being an approachable father is always the best kind.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 255.

    Youth unemployment was on attrocious increase in previous 4 years of Liebour government, add worsening of past 3 years & you have 7 years of worsening employment prospects, hence delay to affording anything let alone disposable nappies.

    Much of past decade may have been ok for many, but the young have experienced deteriorating prospects for longer, hence adding delays to starting family

  • rate this

    Comment number 254.

    My father was in his 30's when I came along back in the 70's. Older perants have more to offer not just financially which I think is the main driving force but they have lived more and experienced things more all of which offer kids more of a start. The lack of affordable social housing and debt burdened young with uni fee's is a larger part of why men wait until later. Plus they are more mature.

  • rate this

    Comment number 253.

    affording a house in your 20s is just a dream these days, with most renting. without a home, who really wants to bring children into the world?

  • Comment number 252.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 251.

    Most men can procreate children until the day they die, so therefore, until their dying day, it is never to late. Old mother nature loves her sons.

  • rate this

    Comment number 250.

    It all started with "Mags and the Boomers" and the end of society. Up until then it was normal to have kids in your 20's. But the theft from, and the burden placed on the following childrens shoulders has pushed the age at which people have children upwards.

  • rate this

    Comment number 249.

    The onus for late fathering ought to be put on women as well who are always passing up younger men because they have still to find and stabilize in a career which is why few marry while still in university. Women want the 'goods' delivered and not have to wait to see if anything will come of some aspirant's dreams of success. Love? What's love got to do with it? We're all actors.

  • rate this

    Comment number 248.

    @2.Broadwood Widger - I feel the exact opposite. The younger the parent, the better. My mother was 16yrs and 2mnths old when she had me. I'm 44 this year so she's only just about to hit retirement age.

    Currently, my stepdaughter is in the same boat and I haven't blown my lid like most parents as, from a child's viewpoint, it's great. I was 33 when I became a dad. That, to me, is too late.

  • rate this

    Comment number 247.

    224.Piggyback - "....Women have more say in when to have children, and women are (in general) deciding to have careers before settling. Nothing to do with the choices of men, we are but at the mercy of women (in general)"

    Your comments sound like those of a sad, lonely individual who can't get &/or hold on to a girlfriend.......

  • rate this

    Comment number 246.

    #245 i had 5 miscarriages with my ex husband before concieving with my current partner and carrying to full term with my little boy. now i am so glad me and my ex didnt have any, because he was abusive. my son is all the more precious for the wait :) fate is a curious thing :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 245.

    I am 46 and my wife is 43 two weeks ago we had identical twin boys. Over the previous four years we had had 6 miscarriages and one molar pregnancy.Needless to say we are very happy. No IVF.

  • rate this

    Comment number 244.

    God, since when was 30 old? I'm 23 and cannot see myself with kids for a long while.

    I think the worst thing would be to have kids before you're ready and end up resenting them for taking away your youth.

  • rate this

    Comment number 243.

    102. footiefan Parents can die at any age - many of us have lost a parent in early childhood and that parent was young at the time.

    So stop being angry because your dad was old get over it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 242.

    They say the world will end with a bang and a baby boom.

  • rate this

    Comment number 241.

    I'm 37 and my wife is currently pregnant with our 3rd child. We waited till we were in our 30's before starting a family because we thought that children would only add to the financial burdens we faced when we first settled down in our 20's.

    Even now, we don't regard ourselves as being 100% financially stable, but I don't think we would have been able to manage if we had our kids 10 years ago.

  • rate this

    Comment number 240.


    i be more concerned by the number of children denied having a father( and sometimes mothers) for other reasons ( family law )

  • Comment number 239.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 238.

    I tend to find that couples who have kids in their 20's or even younger are not equipped to bring up a child for a myriad of different reasons. All the kids I grew up with who are now relatively 'successful' came from steady, nuclear families with parents who'd given birth to them in their thirties or older.

  • rate this

    Comment number 237.

    30 & older....good. Get out there and see the world, get an education and understanding. Settle down knowing you have seen & experienced some of what is out there. Thats what I told my daughter!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 236.

    @ 231.Mike from Brum
    "These days both parents have to work just to afford a modest mortgage or rent. Most sensible people are delaying having kids so they can create a suitable nest first."
    And then they keep delaying as prices keep rising, then suddenly "oh s***!"


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