Disentangling the roles of maternal and paternal age on birth prevalence of down syndrome and other chromosomal disorders using a Bayesian modeling approach. Academic Article uri icon


  • BACKGROUND: Multiple neonatal and pediatric disorders have been linked to older paternal ages. Combining these findings with the evidence that many men are having children at much later ages generates considerable public health concern. The risk of paternal age has been difficult to estimate and interpret because children often have parents whose ages are similar and likely to be confounded. Epidemiologic studies often model the conditional effects of paternal age using regression models that typically treat maternal age as linear, curvilinear or as age-band categories. Each of these approaches has limitations. As an alternative, the current study measures age to the nearest year, and fits a Bayesian model in which each parent's age is given a conditional autoregressive prior (CAR). METHODS: Data containing approximately 12,000,000 birth records were obtained from the United States Natality database for the years 2014 to 2016. Date were cross-tabulated for maternal ages 15-49years and for paternal ages 15-65years. A Bayesian logistic model was implemented using conditional autoregressive priors for both maternal and paternal ages modeled separately and jointly for both Down syndrome and chromosomal disorders other than Down syndrome. RESULTS: Models with maternal and paternal ages given CAR priors were judged to be better fitting than traditional models. For Down syndrome, the approach attributed a very large risk to advancing maternal age with the effect of advancing paternal age having a very small sparing effect on birth prevalence. Maternal age was also related to the birth prevalence of chromosomal disorders other than Down syndrome while paternal age was not. CONCLUSIONS: Advancing paternal age was not associated with an increase in risk for either Down syndrome or chromosomal disorders other than Down syndrome.

published proceedings

  • BMC Med Res Methodol

altmetric score

  • 9.33

author list (cited authors)

  • Thompson, J. A.

citation count

  • 17

complete list of authors

  • Thompson, James A

publication date

  • January 2019