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The Pros and Cons of Being an Older Dad

Al Pacino, 83, has a new baby on the way


spinner image from left to right celebrity older dads robert deniro al pacino and eddie murphy
From left: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Eddie Murphy
Photo by Mustafa Yalcin/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images / Photo by Dominik Bindl/Getty Images / Photo by BG022/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

Siring offspring later in life is by no means uncommon. But when it happens, people raise a glass and a lot of questions — something actor Al Pacino, 83, knows well, after confirming that he will become a dad for the fourth time later this year. 

Pacino’s news comes on the heels of an announcement that fellow actor Robert De Niro, 79, welcomed a baby in May.

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These two Oscar winners aren’t the world’s oldest fathers by a long shot. (That title goes to Australian Les Colley, who welcomed a son in 1991 at age 92, according to Guinness World Records.)​

Pacino, whose 29-year-old girlfriend Noor Alfallah is pregnant, and De Niro, whose seventh child, daughter Gia Virginia Chen-De Niro, was born ​in April, have the public buzzing over older dads.  

These actors aren’t the only Hollywood leading men to have children at an older age. Billy Joel was 68, Clint Eastwood was 66, and Eddie Murphy was 57 when their youngest children were born.​ 

Having children later in life is a trend that has been on the rise among the general population for some time.​ 

The age of a new father in the U.S. rose from 27.4 to 30.9 years from 1972 to 2015, according to a 2017 analysis by Stanford University researchers. The percentage of new dads in their 40s doubled during that time, to almost 9 percent. ​ 

John Duffy, a licensed clinical psychologist and national parenting expert based in Chicago, says he’s come around over the years on the topic of older dads. An obvious concern is that at an older age, a father may not be around for all the milestones as a child progresses into the teenage years and adulthood. ​ 

“I will admit that I used to be concerned about this phenomenon,” Duffy says. “I thought these men seemed too old to start a family, given all the energy and time and patience that’s required to have a child.”​ 

Duffy’s thinking has shifted. “I’ve found those concerns to be less than relevant,” he says. “There are ways to father effectively after age 50 — but it’s a different way of parenting than when you’re in your 20s and 30s.”​ 

Mark Liu knows that well. The 58-year-old digital content strategist from Brighton, New York, became a parent to his third child, Sammy, at 52.​ 

Already father to a son and daughter — 18 and 15, respectively — Liu found comfort in the fact that his own dad had his youngest child at age 60.​ 

“I’ve kept in pretty good shape, and I love having kids, so I wasn’t too worried,” he says. “In a way, it gives us one more chance to get it right, to model and share the things we think are important in life.”​ 

What should men take into account when thinking of becoming an older dad? Here are some things to consider. ​

PROS

Bringing life experience to the job​

​Liu says he doesn’t panic or worry about details as much as he did in his younger days.​

​“Part of that is experience having other kids,” he says. “But I do think there’s a lot of perspective I have now that I might not have had when I was younger, which makes for easier and more reliable parenting.”​

​Having some adversity in life means you’ve also built some resilience, says Emily Pardy, a licensed marriage and family therapist based in Nashville, Tennessee. “If you can humble yourself enough to say, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing,’ then you can welcome the experience and not have insecurities that someone in their 20s or 30s would while still trying to prove to themselves that they’re an adult in the first place.”​

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Financial security

Older dads are typically closer to the top of their achieved work goals. This brings financial stability and sometimes extra time and work flexibility, Pardy says.

 ​Older fathers “usually already own a home, and a lot of other big life milestones that require a lot of time and attention and resources have been established for some time,” she says. They can afford to hire help that makes parenting easier. ​

That financial security may make a difference down the road, particularly as families think about higher education costs. Duffy sees a lot of anxiety among younger parents when it comes to saving money for college — particularly because so many people are getting laid off at a young age. ​​

“Those who are older tend to have a nest egg and, as a result, far less financial stress,” he says, “which also frees up some emotional and head space for parenting.”​

It keeps you young

Playing with his youngest child is a good excuse for Liu to be silly and childlike.​ ​

“It’s easy to lose touch with that side of yourself as you get older; that’s why people look forward to being grandparents,” he says. “[Sammy] keeps me engaged and helps keep me from getting bogged down in too much ‘adulting.’  ”​

More informed parenting

Parenting in your 50s or beyond is likely to look a lot different than parenting in your 20s. An older father may have more time to think about nutrition and the food his child eats or to consider the detriments of too much screen time, and he could be up to date on the latest research and parenting techniques.

Liu admits he’s acutely aware of his need to be a role model. That means paying close attention to how he lives the life lessons he’s trying to hand down, such as eating well and exercising — and being reasonable about screen time.

“Those are good in theory,” he says. “I do think I’m conscious of doing the right thing more, because he’s watching and learning from me.”​

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CONS

Health risks​

Some studies have shown that fathering a child at an older age may increase the likelihood of medical issues for children. ​

Babies born to older fathers are at a higher risk for adverse birth outcomes, according to a 2018 study from researchers at Stanford University. Those scientists culled data on more than 40 million births and found that babies born to fathers older than about 35 were at a higher risk for problems such as low birth weights and seizures.

The older the father, the study showed, the greater the risk.​ 

A 2019 Rutgers University study showed that infants born to older fathers were found to be at a higher risk of similar problems, as well as such birth defects as congenital heart disease and cleft palate, among other issues. As they matured, these children were found to have an increased likelihood of childhood cancers, psychiatric and cognitive disorders, and autism.

A lack of cultural relevancy​

Older dads may not be as in touch with what’s going on with their kids, and may not understand social media and how it can affect a child’s self-esteem — leading to a steeper learning curve than for a younger father.​ 

“They have to do more listening than talking — and that’s hard for older fathers for whom lectures from their own fathers worked really well,” Duffy says. “Kids today are used to — and almost expect and demand — some degree of collaboration in being raised.”

That might be hard for a father who sees himself in a more traditional role, which won’t work with today’s kids, who want to know the “why” behind parenting decisions, Duffy says.

“They say, ‘We’re going to have a discussion, or I’ll tune you out,’  ” Duffy says, which may leave some older dads angry, frustrated or “feeling a little powerless as a parent.”​​ 

Lower energy

Fatherhood is physical — it’s about being down on the floor and in the yard running around, says Duffy, who encourages older dads to be as involved as they can be. If a dad needs a daily nap, isn’t in the best of health, or has physical limitations, keeping up the necessary energy can be a challenge.​ 

“I don’t want them to miss out on the joys of parenthood,” Duffy says of older dads. “Time is precious and moves quickly, and nobody is more aware of that than an older father.”​

Editor's note: This article was originally published on May 17, 2023. It has been updated to reflect new information.

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