Study Links Children’s Autism to Parents’ Mental Health

May 06, 2008 11:01 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
by Josh Katz
Parents with mental illnesses are almost twice as likely to have an autistic child as those without mental disorders, suggesting that genetics contribute to autism.

30-Second Summary

The new study showed an especially high risk factor for mothers and fathers diagnosed with schizophrenia, for whom the chances of having a child with autism doubled.

“The link between parental disorders and a child’s autism was present regardless of whether the parent was diagnosed before or after the child,” the Wall Street Journal Health Blog reported, “suggesting the association may be genetic, not a matter of a parent getting depressed over a child’s diagnosis.”

Researchers also found that mothers of autistic children were more likely to have depression and personality disorders than were the fathers.

In the study, researchers from the University of North Carolina and the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden analyzed health records of 1,327 autistic children born between 1977 and 2003, along with those of the children’s parents, then compared the data with information from 31,000 nonautistic children.

About 1 in every 150 U.S. children is autistic. A growing number of researchers believe that both genes and environmental factors contribute to autism, according to Reuters.

A 2007 study also suggested a genetic basis for autism, finding that “siblings of children with the disorder are at high risk for some of the same social functioning deficits as their brothers or sisters.”

Another theory links childhood vaccinations to higher rates of autism, leading some parents to forego standard immunizations for their children. But many public health officials say vaccines are safe, and withholding them has contributed to a resurgence of preventable illnesses like measles, mumps and pertussis.

Headline Link: ‘Study links child’s autism, parents’ mental illness’

Background: Studies finding family genetics linked to autism

Opinion & Analysis: Implications of the study, Autism’s emotional impact on parents

Related Topics: Nonvaccination linked to resurgence of childhood illnesses

Reference: findingDulcinea’s Web Guide to Autism; latest research and resources from NIMH


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