The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

How to live a long time: be a parent.

I am aware that the title above might surprise people. Parents are an exhausted breed, always running around after little ones so much more energetic than themselves. Surely, this takes a toll on one's health? Surely, parents live shorter lives than lifelong singletons?

Well, the surprising answer, for some, is no. Being a parent is good for you. In a paper, Fertility and Life Span - Late Children Enhance Female Longevity, authors, Hans-Georg Müller (a), Jeng-Min Chiou (c), James R. Carey (b) and Jane-Ling Wang (a) discussed their findings as to the correlations between fertility and life span.

(a Departments of Statistics, University of California, Davis
b Departments of Entomology, University of California, Davis
c Division of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics, National Health Research Institutes, Taipei, Taiwan)

They studied the life records of 1,635 French-Canadian women of the 17th and 18th centuries, paying particular heed to survival past the age of 50. Unexpectedly, they discovered that greater fertility meant greater postreproductive survival. In other words, the more kids you had, the older you got. This goes against the age old wisdom of women being worn out by incessant child birth - if anything it seems to show that women are sustained by the reproductive act.

They derived a mathematical relationship to determine the lifespan advantage. For every ten fold decrease in the age of your youngest child, at the age of 50, there is a 3.93 year longevity advantage. This is quite substantial. For instance, a 50 year old woman with a 2 year old child, is going to live 3.93 years longer than a similar 50 year old with a 20 year old child, typically.

Another paper further enlightens us as to what is happening. Does Having Children Extend Life Span? A Genealogical Study of Parity and Longevity in the Amish by Patrick F. McArdle, Toni I. Pollin, Jeffrey R. O'Connell, John D. Sorkin, Richa Agarwala, Alejandro A. Schäffer, Elizabeth A. Streeten, Terri M. King, Alan R. Shuldiner and Braxton D. Mitchell.

This paper studied 2015 Amish parents from 1749 to 1912 who survived to 50 years or more.

The correlation between number of children and longevity is striking - and it applies to both men and women. For men, each child fathered resulted in an average increase of 0.23 years of life, this was linear and applied to every child fathered. For mothers, there was an increase of 0.32 years per child up to 14. Beyond 14, there were health issues which negatively affected the life expectancy of the mother. Further analysis concluded that, for mothers, the key factor was the age of last child birth - this accounting for all the apparent benefit.

So, what are we to make of this? Many a bachelor or spinster, that I have encountered, has seemed quite pleased with themselves not to be "burdened" with children. They account themselves wise to have no such worries. They tend to believe that they will also live longer without the "stress" of parenthood. Yet, all is not as it seems. Parents live longer than those who never become so. The difference rises linearly with the number of children. Thus the more fertile you are, the longer you tend to live. (Or another way of putting it, the older you are, the more fertile you tend to have been.)

Having children gives you many joys that life does not otherwise offer. It also teaches you much more about life than being a bachelor or spinster ever could. To see a child grow up is the best education there is. It delights me to be able to write that being a parent is also a longevity indicator of sorts. So, not only do children fill your hours with unexpected joys - they give you more hours to fill, too.

It sounds like quite a bargain.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and four months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, four years and nine months, and Tiarnan, twenty-six months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, wunderkind, wonderkind, genio, гений ребенок prodigy, genie, μεγαλοφυία θαύμα παιδιών, bambino, kind, niño, gênio criança, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 10:44 PM 


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