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Another "cause" of autism found (eye roll)

Autistic kids more likely to be born to women abused as children

Scientists believe that the association may be connected to a heightened response to stress that abused women may have.

Women who were abused during childhood may face a higher risk of having a child with an autism spectrum disorder, according to new findings.

 Women in the study who experienced the highest levels of physical and emotional abuse were 60 percent more likely to have a child with autism than women who weren't abused, the study found.

 The most severe combination of physical, emotional and sexual abuse meant a woman in the study was 3.5 times more likely to have an autistic child than a woman who hadn't been abused, said lead study author Andrea L. Roberts, research associate in the department of social and behavioral sciences at the Harvard School of Public Health.

 The researchers examined questionnaire data from more than 52,000 women enrolled in the Nurses' Health Study II, a large study of women's health that began in 1989.

 Of the women in the study, 451 had a child with autism.

 To assess whether the women had been abused during childhood, the researchers asked if the surveyed women had ever been hit hard enough to be bruised, or been struck by a belt or other object, and if they had been subjected to cruel punishments, insulting comments or screaming. Researchers also asked the women if they had ever experienced unwanted sexual touching or forced sexual contact by an adult or older child.

 The researchers also investigated whether pregnancy-related risk factors, which have been associated with autism, further raised the risk for the condition. These risk factors include gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and premature birth. Other risks, such as smoking, use of medicines called selective serotonin uptake inhibitors and abuse by an intimate partner during pregnancy, were also examined.

 Results showed that while the abused women more frequently suffered pregnancy-related risk factors, these factors explained only a small part of the link found between child abuse and autism risk.

 The study shows an association, not a cause-and-effect link, researchers said, and it's not clear how childhood abuse may contribute to autism.

 But there are plausable ways to explain the association. One idea is that abused women may have a heightened response to stress, leading to inflammation or high levels of stress hormones, which affect the fetus' brain. Another possible explanation holds that parents who abuse children may be mentally ill, which may raise the risk for other mental disabilities, including autism, in relatives, Roberts said.

 While provocative, the study results have limitations. First, the data was self-reported. What's more, knowing her child had autism may have influenced a woman's responses to the questionnaires.

 One expert worried the findings may fuel parents' fears that they caused their child's condition.

 "What is concerning is the potential effect this could have on mothers," said Tanya Paparella, director of the Early Childhood Partial Hospitalization Program at the University of California, Los Angeles, which treats young children who have autism. "We know that autism is strongly genetic in its origin, but we know very little about where the genetic risk factors lie and where the environmental risk factors lie, and very little about the combination of genetic and environmental risks."

 Still, the study adds a new piece to the autism puzzle. "We are struggling a little with trying to find out what causes autism," Roberts said. "Our study points to a possible new direction in the research."

 The fact that pregnancy-related risk factors for autism were higher in women who were abused "suggests that the effect of abuse can reach across generations," Roberts added.  "As a society, we need to focus more on how children are cared for and give more support to families who might be at risk for abusing their children."

The study was published online on March 20 in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.

How many things have been blamed for the cause of autism now?

What are your thoughts on this article?


Asked by LostSoul88 at 10:31 AM on Apr. 4, 2013 in Kids' Health

Level 40 (119,496 Credits)
This question is closed.
Answers (14)
  • I can believe the stress link may be to "blame"
    Look at what stress does to your body health wise

    Answer by butterflyblue19 at 10:40 AM on Apr. 4, 2013

  • maybe the ever increasing numbers of children with autism has something to do with the huge increase in chemicals that our in our daily lives
    and these chemicals that are now in the human body

    can be many factors that increase odds, and all are related to the break down of the human body from the combination of toxic elements

    the amount of chemicals used these days is very scary. Even the bast scientists do not know what the outcome and dangers are from mixing these chemicals and what effects this has on the human condition

    just my gut instinct
    * lol= if there was a vote down button, my opinion/comment would be collapsed in a few minutes
    i was not abused, i have a child in spectrum.
    daughter does have a half brother with ADD, so genetic factor- most likely, but (imo) that is still related to a break down from chemicals

    Answer by fiatpax at 11:05 AM on Apr. 4, 2013

  • if my daughter gets any food dues into her body, her autism goes from moderate/mild to severe in hours
    so these chemicals make her autism much much worse, so therefore, not having these chemicals make her autism 'better'

    makes it clear to me, that the chemicals in food dyes (food dyes are made from petroleum products) cause her to have autism, cause her to have more autism, make her autism worse... chemicals that are not natural to have in a human body

    makes me scared to think of all the chemicals that are not obvious and what is in our bodies
    colored food dyes are right there and obvious, they give her a rash, and she goes into a crazy state of mind, she does not have them and no rashes, and balanced brain for her

    Answer by fiatpax at 11:51 AM on Apr. 4, 2013

  • Honestly, there may be a link with this: "Another possible explanation holds that parents who abuse children may be mentally ill, which may raise the risk for other mental disabilities, including autism, in relatives, Roberts said."

    Answer by 3libras at 10:35 AM on Apr. 4, 2013

  • it will be something that is based in science
    brain scans of people with autism show a different way brain has developed

    what the reason? do not know
    i think it will be a combo of things

    some things give you better odds to have a child with autism
    - fathers age
    - pregnancy issues
    - and family history

    but none are a cause, just bettering odds
    the numbers of children that develop autism is increasing at numbers that can not be explained by better ways if getting a diagnosis
    and certainly can not be from purely genetic factors, as even if humans reproduced like bunnies- this could not explain the increase
    ...therefore you have to think of what has changed so quickly in our environment that could explain this sudden increase

    autism years back was not common, it was still here, so genetic- yes...but what has changed the human genetics to make autism increase at such numbers?


    Answer by fiatpax at 11:46 AM on Apr. 4, 2013

  • petroleum was not made for eating.... or was it?


    Answer by fiatpax at 11:53 AM on Apr. 4, 2013

  • Kind of makes sense. Inflammation anywhere is really a whole-body thing, and some inflammation molecules are known to cross the placenta and influence fetal development. Plus grandparents that abuse their kids might have mental issues so there may be some kind of genetic link.

    I think it's also helpful to remember that; "The study shows an association, not a cause-and-effect link, researchers said, and it's not clear how childhood abuse may contribute to autism." So an eye-roll would be totally valid IF they were claiming that "abuse causes autism". But the are clearly not saying that. They just found one more piece of autism's puzzle that may lead someone to learn something that someone else can use to learn something else that may, 5-10 steps down the road, help us find one of the many causes of autism. That's how research works.

    Answer by Sebbiemama at 2:39 PM on Apr. 4, 2013

  • A woman's failure to bond or love her child in the early days. Was on scientifically "proven" fact. many years ago.

    Ain't "science" great.

    Answer by Dardenella at 11:17 AM on Apr. 4, 2013

  • eye rolling


    Answer by fiatpax at 10:57 AM on Apr. 4, 2013

  • Doesn't Utah have a lot of kids though?

    Answer by staciandababy at 11:46 AM on Apr. 4, 2013