If you think having children in your 70s isn’t a wise decision, one prominent “wise guy” might just convince you to fuggedaboudtit. Robert De Niro is proving at 79 that age truly is just a number, after welcoming his seventh child into the world.
The beloved Oscar-winning actor casually dropped the exciting news in a recent interview with ET Canada. De Niro was discussing his latest movie, About My Father, when he revealed the bombshell to ET Canada’s Brittnee Blair. “I mean, there’s no way around it with kids. I don’t like to have to lay down the law and stuff like that. But, [sometimes] you just have no choice,” he told Blair. “And any parent, I think, would say the same thing. You always want to do the right thing by the children and give them the benefit of the doubt but sometimes you can’t.”
That’s when Blair brought up his six children, leading De Niro to correct her. “Seven, actually. I just had a baby,” he shared. He didn’t reveal any additional information about the child, nor whom the mother is, but nonetheless the proud dad is beaming with pride over the newest De Niro. His next youngest child is daughter Helen, who is 11, followed by 25-year-old Elliot, who he shares with ex-wife Grace Hightower. He also has two twin sons, Aaron and Julian, with ex-girlfriend Toukie Smith. His oldest kids are Raphael, 46, and Drena, 51, who he shares with his first wife, Diahnne Abbott. De Niro had adopted Drena, who is Abbott’s child from a previous relationship, after they wed.
Meet the parents: De Niro is in good company
De Niro is one of several notable male celebrities who have fathered children in their later years. Some of these individuals include:
- Mick Jagger: The Rolling Stones frontman had his eighth child, Deveraux Octavian Basil Jagger, at the age of 73 with his then-girlfriend Melanie Hamrick.
- Charlie Chaplin: The legendary actor and filmmaker had his 11th child, Christopher, at the age of 73 with his fourth wife, Oona O’Neill.
- Clint Eastwood: The famous actor and director had his seventh child, Morgan, at the age of 66 with his then-wife, Dina Ruiz.
- Steve Martin: The comedian and actor became a first-time father at the age of 67 with his wife, Anne Stringfield, when they welcomed their daughter in 2012.
- Rod Stewart: The British singer had his eighth child, Aiden, at the age of 66 with his wife, Penny Lancaster.
- Rupert Murdoch: The media mogul had his sixth child, Chloe, at the age of 72 with his then-wife, Wendi Deng.
- Richard Gere: The actor and humanitarian had his second child, Alexander, at the age of 69 with his wife, Alejandra Silva.
- Larry King: The late television and radio host had his two youngest children, Chance and Cannon, at the ages of 65 and 66, respectively, with his then-wife, Shawn Southwick.
- Julio Iglesias: The Spanish singer had his fifth child, Guillermo, at the age of 63 with his wife, Miranda Rijnsburger.
- Alec Baldwin: The actor welcomed at age 64 his seventh child with wife Hilaria, daughter Ilaria Catalina Irena, in September 2022. He is also father to daughter Ireland, who he shares with ex-wife Kim Basinger.
- Tony Randall: The late actor, best known for his role in the television series “The Odd Couple,” had his first child, Julia, at the age of 77, and his second child, Jefferson, at the age of 78, with his wife, Heather Harlan.
- Bernie Ecclestone: The former Formula One CEO had his fourth child, Ace, at the age of 89 with his wife, Fabiana Flosi.
What research says about fathering children later in life
First and foremost, it’s worth noting that men do have biological clocks, with fertility levels dropping after age 50. According to a recent study out of London, scientists discovered the probability of a live birth is 33 percent lower if the father is over 50 years-old. Study authors say that stories of celebrities fathering children into their 60s have contributed to the myth that “male fertility lasts for ever.” Their paper suggests that men shouldn’t put off fatherhood for too long, writing: “Paternal age over 50 significantly affects the chance of achieving a live birth following assisted reproductive technology. There should be a public health message for men to not delay fatherhood.”
That said, a separate study conducted in London and published in 2017 reports that there are advantages to fathering children later in life. Researchers at Kings College London found that that boys born to older fathers tend to be geekier — that is, they show greater intelligence, and worry less about what others think of them personally. The finding held especially true for boys in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects. One possible explanation for the researchers’ findings is that older fathers tend to be of better socioeconomic status, which enables their sons to grow up in a more enriched environment, augmented by better schooling.
Scientists warn, however, that men who have children after 40 are at greater risk of accumulated damage to sperm DNA and reduced quality control mechanisms during sperm production. The findings, published in the Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics in 2018, say these problems can lead to abnormalities in sperm chromosomes, increased sperm DNA fragmentation, and a higher risk of gene mutations. As a result, offspring of older fathers may face an increased risk of miscarriage, fetal loss, rare single gene disorders, congenital anomalies, and psychiatric conditions such as autism and schizophrenia. The root causes are believed to be related to genetic defects in sperm quality control, which result in single gene mutations and epigenetic alterations in multiple genetic pathways.
A father’s age at conception could also impact a child’s social development, particularly during adolescence. More specifically, a study found that children born to fathers below the age of 25 and over the age of 51 exhibited pro-social behaviors in early stages of development, but by adolescence, their social behaviors weren’t as advanced as their peers. Researchers write that their study “indicates that some children born to older fathers may experience difficulties in social settings, and the challenges that they face may increase as they get older, even if they do not meet any diagnostic criteria.”
And if you’re concerned that older individuals may not be able to keep up with children physically, scientists say that strides in biological aging really are allowing people to do more than elderly folks of generations past. One 2019 study shows that older men who have higher levels of sex hormones may have a lower biological age — that is they may feel physically and mentally younger than they actually are. “As populations grow older and sicker, identifying pathways to healthier aging is important,” said the study’s lead investigator, Bu Yeap, a professor at the university’s medical school. “Sex hormones such as testosterone and its active metabolite, estradiol, may reflect or possibly determine biological youth.”
Children of older dads may have better emotional maturity
Though the risks for rare genetic mutations or social development delays may be greater, with age comes wisdom and maturity, along with opportunities for dads to provide for their kids in impactful ways they might not have been able to early on.
Older fathers are more likely to have established careers and financial stability, providing a supportive environment for their children in terms of education, healthcare, and overall well-being. They may be more likely to prioritize a healthy work-life balance, allowing them to dedicate more time and energy to raising their children. This can lead to stronger family bonds and better overall mental health for both the father and their children.
Older men may also possess greater emotional maturity, wisdom, and life experience, which could contribute to more effective parenting, better communication, and stronger emotional bonds with their children. Those bonds are paramount for raising a mentally strong child, ultimately setting them up for a successful life filled with healthy and thriving relationships.
As for De Niro, being a new dad and filming another movie while approaching his 80s shouldn’t really surprise anyone. In a 2015 interview with Cigar Aficionado’s editor and publisher Marvin Shanken, De Niro said even in his early 70s he didn’t see himself as old, and had no plans to retire from acting. “I don’t really think of retirement because I don’t know what else I would do other than do what I’m doing, I guess. I don’t feel, and you can tell me how you feel, but I don’t feel really much older than I think. I look at myself, I’m not even used to looking at myself as being older. It’s a little disconcerting if you see somebody you’ve known in your 30s or 40s or even 50s who has not aged well, or just got older. That’s life,” he said.
Shanken also asked him what the one thing he hasn’t done yet that he wants to do before he dies. His answer proves just how much he loves his greatest role in life — as dad. Knocking emphatically on the table, he told Shanken: “I want to live as long as I can for my kids.”