Monday, June 23rd, 2014
A new study conducted by University of California researchers has found that parents who have a child diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often choose not to have more children, citing the energy, expense, and complicated logistics required to care for an autistic child. More from HealthDay News:
In the study, a team led by Neil Risch of the University of California, San Francisco, looked at nearly 20,000 families in California. All of the families included a child with autism born between 1990 and 2003.
These families were compared to a “control” group of more than 36,000 families that did not have a child with autism.
Parents whose first child had autism were about one-third less likely to have a second child than parents in the control group, the study found, while parents who had a later-born child with autism were equally less likely to have more children.
The researchers also found that parents of children with autism were likely to continue having other children until the child with autism began showing signs of or was diagnosed with the disorder. This suggests that not having more children is a decision made by parents, rather than a reproductive problem, the study authors said.
According to Risch’s team, in calculating the risk to families of having a second child with autism, most prior studies on the issue have ignored the fact that many families with an autistic child may have already made the decision to stop reproducing. That means the real risk of having a second child with autism may be higher than has been generally thought, they noted.
So, in the new study, Risch’s team accounted for the decision by some couples to stop having kids after they had already had a child with autism. When that factor was taken into account, there was about a one in 10 chance that the parents of child with autism who did decide to have more children would have a second child with autism, the investigators found.
The study was published June 18 in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.
“While it has been postulated that parents who have a child with [autism] may be reluctant to have more children, this is first time that anyone has analyzed the question with hard numbers,” Risch, a professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at UCSF, said in a university news release.
He believes that the “findings have important implications for genetic counseling of affected families.”
Study co-author Lisa Croen, an epidemiologist and director of the Autism Research Program at Kaiser Permanente Northern California, noted, “unfortunately, we still don’t know what causes autism, or which specific conditions make it more likely.”
And, she added, “We are hoping that further research will enable us to identify both effective treatment strategies and, ultimately, modifiable causes of the disorder, so parents won’t have to curtail their families for fear of having another affected child.”
Image: Boy at a playground, via Shutterstock
Add a Comment
Monday, May 5th, 2014
The environmental factors a child are exposed to may hold as much weight as genetics in predicting whether that child develops an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to a new British study. More from Reuters:
Sven Sandin, who worked on the study at King’s College London and Sweden’s Karolinska institute, said it was prompted “by a very basic question which parents often ask: ‘If I have a child with autism, what is the risk my next child will too?’”
The findings, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), suggest heritability is only half the story, with the other 50 percent explained by environmental factors such as birth complications, socio-economic status, or parental health and lifestyle.
The study also found that children with a brother or sister with autism are 10 times more likely to develop the condition, three times if they have a half-brother or sister with autism, and twice as likely if they have a cousin with autism.
“At an individual level, the risk of autism increases according to how close you are genetically to other relatives with autism,” said Sandin. “We can now provide accurate information about autism risk which can comfort and guide parents and clinicians in their decisions.”
People with autism have varying levels of impairment across three common areas: social interaction and understanding, repetitive behavior and interests, and language and communication.
The exact causes of the neurodevelopmental disorder are unknown, but evidence has shown it is likely to include a range of genetic and environmental risk factors.
Image: Baby, via Shutterstock
What’s your toddler nutrition IQ?
Add a Comment
Tuesday, April 29th, 2014
Older siblings may play a large role in the likelihood that their younger siblings will follow them down a criminal path–larger than the influence younger siblings exert on their older brothers and sisters in the same area. These are the findings from a new study conducted by researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University, as the university explains:
The findings provide insight into the social transmission of violent behaviors and suggest that environmental factors within families can be important when it comes to delinquent behavior. Down the road, the results may be used to inform strategies for prevention and treatment programs.
For some time, experts have recognized that violent criminal behavior runs strongly in families due to shared environmental factors such as poverty, divorce and poor parental supervision.
In a study, published online April 28 in the journal Psychological Medicine, researchers examined a series of national databases from Sweden linking full sibling pairs and criminal conviction. The team conducted two analyses – one that looked at age differences in siblings, and one that examined the difference in the risk of being a younger sibling versus an older sibling of a proband with violent criminal behavior.
Researchers found that older siblings more strongly “transmit” the risk for violent criminal behavior to their younger siblings, rather than vice versa. The team also found that the closer in age that siblings are, the greater the risk for the transmission of violent behavior. The authors write, “Because older siblings often exert more influence on siblings than younger, the risk for violent criminal behavior should be greater when the older sibling has violent criminal behavior as compared to the younger sibling. However it is not just mere closeness in age, but rather the nature of the sibling relationship that often occurs when siblings are closer in age.”
Image: Jail, via Shutterstock
Add a Comment
Tuesday, January 28th, 2014
Young children who have close relationships with older siblings may have an easier time developing good vocabularies. This is only one way in which healthy sibling relationships may help influence the development of younger siblings, according to new research published in the journal Pediatrics. More from Reuters:
How older children interact with their siblings is tied to the younger children’s development, Canadian researchers found.
“The idea is that here is this effect of being in a large family where you don’t get that many resources, but if you get an older sibling that’s really attuned to your needs that would be a modifying effect,” Jennifer Jenkins told Reuters Health.
Jenkins is the study’s senior author and the Atkinson Chair of Early Child Development and Education at the University of Toronto.
Previous research had found that children from large families tend to score lower on vocabulary, IQ and other academic tests, compared to those from smaller families.
“That’s been pretty well examined that the larger the family, the less good the child’s skill in language and IQ,” Jenkins said. “It’s really thought of as a resource dilution.”
For example, if a couple has a second child, the attention they spent on their first child will then be split among both kids.
She cautioned that whatever effect a large family may have on a child is small, however.
To see whether an older sibling can possibly fill in for some of that diluted attention, the researchers used data from an existing trial that included families from Toronto with 385 young children who had a sibling at least four years older.
Mothers and older siblings were scored on how they interacted with the younger child.
For example, the researchers scored whether the older sibling or mother were sensitive to the younger sibling’s abilities and gave positive feedback.
The younger sibling’s vocabulary was also tested by having the child point to an object’s picture after its named was said out loud.
The researchers found that children with many siblings tended to score lower on the vocabulary test, compared to those who had smaller families.
Children from large families whose older siblings scored higher during the interaction, however, tended to score higher on the test than those whose older brother or sister scored lower during the interaction.
The association between an older sibling’s so-called cognitive sensitivity and the younger child’s score remained strong even when the researchers also accounted for traits that might have influenced the results, such as gender and age.
While the overall association may be small, Jenkins said many traits that are associated with similar cognitive delays are of a similar size.
“It’s multiple and multiple accumulating influences,” she said. “I think all of these small influences are worth paying attention to.”
Image: Siblings, via Shutterstock
Add a Comment
Thursday, September 12th, 2013
Adopted children may be more likely to attempt or commit suicide than their non-adopted siblings, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Minnesota. More from Reuters:
Researchers urged doctors to be on the lookout for signs of trouble in adopted teen patients but said parents should not be overly alarmed by the results.
“While our findings suggest that adoptees may have an elevated risk for suicide attempt, the majority of the adopted individuals in our study were psychologically well-adjusted,” lead author Margaret Keyes, a psychologist at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, said.
Suicide is the third leading cause of death for young people between the ages of 10 and 24 years old, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to the agency, 4,600 youth deaths each year in the U.S. are suicides, and a much larger number of young people make attempts to take their own lives.
Previous research in Sweden found that adopted kids in that country were more likely to attempt suicide than nonadopted kids, but no comparable study had been done in the U.S., according to Keyes and her coauthors writing in the journal Pediatrics.
Image: Sad teenager, via Shutterstock
Add a Comment