Findings of a new study suggest a possible benefit of delayed childbearing as a growing number of parents are having their first babies at a later age. Researchers found that children born to older parents tend to have fewer externalizing behavioral problems such as aggression.

Earlier studies have shown a link between the father’s age and autism spectrum disorders and schizophrenia in children, so Marielle Zondervan-Zwijnenburg, of Utrecht University, and colleagues wanted to find out if there is a link in the general population between the age of the parents and common behavior problems in children.

The researchers analyzed the problem behavior of nearly 33,000 children when they were between 10 and 12 years old. The children’s parents, teachers and the children themselves rated the problem behavior through a series of standardized instruments.

The researchers found that the children of older parents tend to be less aggressive based on reports by parents and teachers.

Zondervan-Zwijnenburg said that with respect to common behavior problems, future parents need not worry about the harm of having a child at an older age.

Crying child
Pictured: A crying child. Bob Dmyt/Pixabay

While the study found a link between aggressive behaviors in children and parents’ age, it did not find an association between the parents’ age and the children’s internalizing behaviors such as anxiety and depression.

“The analytic strategy applied to large cohorts showed us a beneficial association between advanced parental age and externalizing problem behavior, whereas for internalizing problem behavior there was no beneficial association with parental age,” the researchers wrote in their study.

Older parents may have children with fewer behavioral problems like aggression because of their level of education and resources, but the researchers found that the association between aggression and parents’ age persists even after accounting for the socioeconomic status of the family.

This suggests that the favorable effect of the parents’ age on their children’s behavior is not solely based on the family’s income level.

"It's possible that some of the reason why older parents have children with fewer problems like aggression is that older parents have more resources and higher levels of education," said study researcher Dorret Boomsma, of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

"But it is important to note that the higher average educational level of older parents does not completely explain the decreased levels of externalizing problems in their children."

The findings were published in the journal Child Development on July 31.