Advanced parental ages and low birth weight in autism spectrum disorders-Rates and effect on functioning

Esther Ben Itzchak, Eli Lahat, Ditza A. Zachor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Objectives: (1) To assess the distribution of parental age and birth weight in a large cohort with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and to compare them to Israeli national data. (2) To examine possible relationships between these risk factors and functioning. Methods: The study included 529 participants diagnosed with ASD using standardized tests: the Autism Diagnosis Interview-Revised and the Autism Diagnosis Observation Schedule (ADOS). Medical, developmental and familial histories (gender, age, pregnancy and birth information, parental ages) were obtained. Autism severity was assessed using the new ADOS severity scale and adaptive skill using the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales. Results: Advanced parental age was associated with ASD. In the older age range the percentages of mothers (35-44. y) and fathers (30-40. y) were significantly higher in the ASD cohort in comparison to the Israeli newborn data. The ASD cohort had significantly higher percentages of low birth weight (<2500. g) and very low birth weight (VLBW < 1500. g) in comparison to the Israeli newborn data. Of these risk factors, only VLBW was associated with lower adaptive functioning. The group with VLBW had lower scores in daily living, socialization and motor skills in comparison to the >1500. g group. Autism severity was not associated with advanced parental age or VLBW. Conclusions: The shift in parental age distribution and birth weight in our ASD cohort suggests that the increase in ASD prevalence in recent years might be associated with novel prenatal insults. An adverse fetal course resulting in VLBW may represent a " second hit" phenomenon, causing a poorer outcome.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1776-1781
Number of pages6
JournalResearch in Developmental Disabilities
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2011


  • Adaptive skills
  • Autism severity
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Low birth weight
  • Parental age


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