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

Related Stories

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.


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 295.

    I never saw the attraction of throwing ones youth away to start a have kids, or be divorced before 40, what about living? learning about yourself, learning patience? setting yourself up for the future?
    Its not exactly mandatory to get married or have kids so if people are waiting a tad longer it has to be a good thing - they might be thinking for themselves not just on social autopilot

  • rate this

    Comment number 294.

    Children of older fathers tend to inherit traits that make them live much longer. This is further enhanced if their grandfathers were also older when their fathers were conceived.

    Where are the policies to make it more likely that these children age well?

    These policies are important to make sure that these kids do not turn into very ill & dependent Methuselah(s)

  • rate this

    Comment number 293.

    Kids do not destroy your life, they just take it in a different direction. Go listen on you tube to,.. too much too young, absolutely sez it like it was. close to the time my cousin was fifteen and pregnant, 81/82, ahhh the early eighties, I remember them vaguely.

  • rate this

    Comment number 292.

    There's a lot of financial disincentives to have children - aside from the vilification by others without kids who carp endlessly about the benefits.

    Inflated accommodation costs and the hire today fire tomorrow employment culture are key, but the reduction/ withdrawl of support for families is apparent in a number of ways, anyone whose child is currently attending university will attest to that.

  • Comment number 291.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 290.

    Im the youngest of 2- Dad is 65 and was 47 and 45 respectively. I have great parents, caring family home and a secure life, Im not costing tax payers money on child support and my parents have fostered 2 children to a standard i aspire to. Age is irrelevant yes im fitter than dad but for 65 he's no slouch. Putting careers first to foster a safe secure family has done us no harm Great Job Parents.

  • rate this

    Comment number 289.

    It's probably more to do with the fact that women prefer maturity in a man, and they're not likely to find that maturity in a man of their own age. I regularly see "men" in their late 20's/30's still with skateboards, or playing computer games. They're still boys, and lack the maturity to be fathers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 288.

    @158. Tha Godfatha

    'I will be a dad by the time I am 26 .... plus as a young dad I can take my child traveling with my partner. '


    You have no idea. Take a child travelling?

    Hahahahah. I give it one week of 'travelling' before you set that idea aside for another five or six years.

    Kids destroy your life in ways you have not yet began to imagine.

  • rate this

    Comment number 287.

    Well now, here's a thing. Two thirds of MY children were born to a father aged over 30, one third were born to a father aged over 50. We are a statistically typical family... except for their 150+ average IQs of course.

  • rate this

    Comment number 286.

    There is a tendency to analyze everything to a point of no return. The spin on the outcome (by special groups/press) can lead one to wonder what to do in almost every situation. Latest stats 54% of marriages end in divorce and most domestic problems centre around money (lack of). Over populated world, global warming, unemployment ----scary stuff.

  • Comment number 285.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 284.

    30 isnt old these days - we live longer and start things later, we dont leave school as teens and go straight into our father's trade, girls arent destined to be housewives.
    our parents had jobs (for life) and homes and kids by their mid 20s, that just isnt the way these days, hardly any 20 somethings have finances to buy homes or support families. There shouldnt be a rush to marry or be a parent

  • rate this

    Comment number 283.

    We're realising that we'd rather have a life than bring one into the world. That and the the fact we're heavily over populated and must live greener lives. Children are the single biggest contributer to household waste, and are little consumers in the making.
    Children are the most abrasive substance known to CDs and DVDs, fact.
    If it can't wipe its own backside or make a sandwich it's not for me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 282.

    209. Tancredi - I turn 30 this year and have 4 children, a good number of my friends were under 30 when they had their first child. It still a common thing for a woman to have a child under 30, even if you have not personally encountered it yourself.

  • rate this

    Comment number 281.

    People are reluctant to start a family until they have a secure home.
    For over 30 years, we have had been governed by people who feel entitled to have their property go up in value. The feeding of this addiction culture has been achieved by not building enough homes, and allowing the ownership of existing properties to be concentrated in the hands of a few.

  • rate this

    Comment number 280.

    Money, money, money and cultural acceptability. Most people I know expect to have a career, travel, buy a house before they're supposed to have babies. This may not be the right order, but I know my family would have frowned on me if I'd cracked out babies in my 20s which is kind of sad.

  • rate this

    Comment number 279.

    259. ColadadelCid
    "Oddly it seems that the more educated a person is the less likely that they will ever get married."

    Nothing odd about that. It's because we prefer partners of a similar intelligence/education, and the more you have the harder it is to find a match. Conversely, if you're stupid you'll find it incredibly easy to find a partner and breed more stupid kids.

  • rate this

    Comment number 278.

    Either have your kids early or late.

    That way you can have some life for yourself before or after whilst you're still fit. The worst thing is to have them in your mid to late 20s.

  • rate this

    Comment number 277.

    "Why are so many over 30s men becoming dads?" surely its a good thing - we should be more mature before we frivolously sire children and few 20 somethings have the funds to support a family

  • rate this

    Comment number 276.

    My late twenties/earliy thirties was a wonderful time to be a dad of three - I can't work out for the life of me why people leave it so late to have children!

    I'm 50 this year, the kids have flown the nest; now we can do the things we couldn't do back then ( and we have the luxury of choice when it comes to the grandchildren!)

    No regrets at all.


Page 8 of 22


More Health stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.