The Follies of Hollywood Fatherhood

You probably heard it already: George and Amal Clooney are expecting. Yessiree, that perennial 55-year old bachelor, once described by the New Yorker Magazine as: “lightly ironic, clever, and self-deprecating, with furrowed brow and bobbing head, and a gyration in the lower jaw,” is awaiting diaper duty…for twins nonetheless.
Ironically, this little feature of the salt-and-pepper haired actor’s life was highlighted by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), maybe because Clooney is 2.2 times older than the average U.S. father having his first child? And what, pray tell, are the consequences of being born to an older dad?

Not The First

Surely, Clooney is not the first of Hollywood royalty to be an older dad. Take a look at ages of other, older, Hollywood dads that paint Clooney as a youngster father:
Tony Randall           76 years old
Charlie Chaplin       73 years old
Mick Jagger             73 years old
Robert DeNiro         68 years old
Pablo Picasso          68 years old
Steve Martin            67 years old
Clint Eastwood        66 years old
Larry King                66 years old
Nick Nolte                66 years old
Hugh Hefner            66 years old
Cary Grant               62 years old
Rod Stewart             60 years old
Clearly the Clooneys are merely maintaining a tradition rather than starting any real trend in modern day parenthood.

Risk is Relative

To be sure, there are several layers of risk to being an older dad. Miscarriage rates and pre-term births are about twice as common, and offspring birth defects are about 25% higher. Kids with chromosomal issues are higher, but not as high as kids born to older (>38 years) mothers. Most concerning however, are the higher rates of rare genetic diseases in offspring and the similar increased risk of schizophrenia, autism, bipolar disorder and ADHD in children of older dads. Enough to scare you out of having kids, right?

Relative Risk

But behind this long and ugly list, there is a silver lining. When you compare 30-year old dads to 70-year olds, the overall rates of these conditions increase from about 1% to 3%. That’s 3 chances in 100, only slightly better than the best interest rate you can manage from a savings account, a short term CD or even many bond funds. And you only wish that you owned a credit card that posted this interest rate!

Fatherly Advice

When it comes to offspring issues with advanced paternal age, there is nothing you can test for ahead of time, unlike prenatal testing offered to women. So, here are your choices: You can either have kids earlier, bank sperm when young, or chock the whole thing up to evolution and hope for the best. Remember what they say about risk: You can take it or die wondering.