Did you know that psychologists can test how much of a geek you are? Or that the fathers of male geeks tend to share a certain characteristic?
Inventing a Geek Index
Researchers at New King’s College, London and The Seaver Autism Center for Research and Treatment, Mount Sinai in the US wanted to learn about geeks.
First they defined three traits of geekiness: being more intelligent, more focused on what interests you and less interested in fitting in with your peers.
Then they looked at 15,000 UK twins to see if they could find a correlation between being geeky and paternal age. When these twins reached the age of 12 they were asked to fill in online tests that measured levels of non-verbal IQ, strong focus and social aloofness. They also asked parents about how much time the kids would spend on stuff that interested them and about their social interactions.
They found that boy geeks tend to have dads that are a little bit older.
A lot of research to date has suggested that kids with older dads have a higher risk of autism and schizophrenia. This research set out to find if there were advantages to being an older father as well. Turns out, there is.
Children who score higher on the Geek Index tend to do better academically. This was confirmed when they were followed up at the age of 16. The geekier kids did better at school, especially in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM subjects). Interestingly, the link between geekiness and the age of fatherhood seems to only apply to boys.
Of course it is still a just a correlation. As with all studies like this, it is hard to find how much is due to genetics and how much to environment. To tackle this, the researchers accounted for the mother’s age, education levels and social status. The results suggest that there is a definite genetic component as well as environmental.
Do Geeks Lie Somewhere On The Autism Spectrum?
The authors think that there is some overlap in genes for geekiness and autism. And that older dads tend to produce sperm with more of these genes.
“When the child is born only with some of those genes, they may be more likely to succeed in school. However, with a higher ‘dose’ of these genes, and when there are other contributing risk factors, they may end up with a higher predisposition for autism,” lead author, Dr Magdelena Janecka
Recent research found that genes linked with autism are also linked with higher IQ.
One mix of genes can be helpful and another disadvantageous. But, at last there is good news for fathers who are a bit long in the tooth!