Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Women abused as children more likely to have children with autism

Date:
March 20, 2013
Source:
Harvard School of Public Health
Summary:
Women who experienced physical, emotional, or sexual abuse as children are more likely to have a child with autism than women who were not abused.

Women who experienced physical, emotional, or sexual abuse as children are more likely to have a child with autism than women who were not abused, according to a new study from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH). Those who experienced the most serious abuse had the highest likelihood of having a child with autism -- three-and-a-half times more than women who were not abused.

"Our study identifies a completely new risk factor for autism," said lead author Andrea Roberts, research associate in the HSPH Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences. "Further research to understand how a woman's experience of abuse is associated with autism in her children may help us better understand the causes of autism and identify preventable risk factors."

The study appears online March 20, 2013 and in the May 2013 print issue of JAMA Psychiatry. It is the first to explore the relationship between a mother's exposure to childhood abuse and risk of autism in her children.

The authors examined data from more than 50,000 women enrolled in the Nurses' Health Study II. They found that it was not just women exposed to the most serious levels of abuse who had higher risk of having a child with autism, but also a large number of women who experienced moderate abuse. While about 2% of women reported the most serious abuse, even women in the top 25% of abuse severity -- which included mostly women who experienced more moderate levels of abuse -- were 60% more likely to have a child with autism compared with women who did not experience abuse. These results suggest that childhood abuse is not only very harmful for the person who directly experiences it, but may also increase risk for serious disabilities in the next generation, the authors said.

Delving further, the researchers looked at nine pregnancy-related risk factors to see if they were linked to higher risk of having a child with autism in women who were abused as children. These nine risk factors -- including gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and smoking -- have been previously associated with an increased likelihood of having a child with autism.

The researchers did find that women who had experienced abuse as children had a higher risk for each of the pregnancy-related risk factors that were examined. Surprisingly, though, those risk factors accounted for only 7% of the increased likelihood of having a child with autism among women who were abused.

Given that these factors accounted for so little of the association between mother's experience of abuse and risk of autism in her children, the authors speculated that other factors may be playing a role. One possibility, they said, is that long-lasting effects of abuse on women's biological systems, such as the immune system and stress-response system, are responsible for increasing their likelihood of having a child with autism. More research is needed to tease out the mechanisms involved in the maternal childhood abuse-autism link, the authors said.

"Childhood abuse is associated with a wide array of health problems in the person who experiences it, including both mental health outcomes like depression and anxiety, and physical health outcomes like obesity and lung disease. Our research suggests that the effects of childhood abuse may also reach across generations," said senior author Marc Weisskopf, associate professor of environmental and occupational epidemiology at HSPH.

Given the findings in this study, the authors suggest increasing efforts to prevent childhood abuse, and suggest that clinicians focus more strongly on limiting pregnancy-related autism risk factors, particularly among women who experienced abuse in childhood.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Harvard School of Public Health. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Andrea L. Roberts et al. Association of Maternal Exposure to Childhood Abuse With Elevated Risk for Autism in OffspringAutism and Maternal Exposure to Childhood Abuse. JAMA Psychiatry, 2013; 1 DOI: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.447

Cite This Page:

Harvard School of Public Health. "Women abused as children more likely to have children with autism." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 March 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130320212818.htm>.
Harvard School of Public Health. (2013, March 20). Women abused as children more likely to have children with autism. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130320212818.htm
Harvard School of Public Health. "Women abused as children more likely to have children with autism." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130320212818.htm (accessed September 22, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Monday, September 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) The study found elderly people are much more likely to become susceptible to infection than younger adults going though a similar situation. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Food Addiction Might Be Caused By PTSD

Food Addiction Might Be Caused By PTSD

Newsy (Sep. 18, 2014) New research shows that women who suffer from PTSD are three times more likely to develop a food addiction. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Corporal Punishment on Decline, Debate Renews

Corporal Punishment on Decline, Debate Renews

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Corporal punishment in the United States is on the decline, but there is renewed debate over its use after Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was charged with child abuse. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
FDA Eyes Skin Shocks Used at Mass. School

FDA Eyes Skin Shocks Used at Mass. School

AP (Sep. 15, 2014) The FDA is considering whether to ban devices used by the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center in Canton, Massachusetts, the only place in the country known to use electrical skin shocks as aversive conditioning for aggressive patients. (Sept. 15) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins