Autism Risk In Offspring Linked To Childhood Abuse Of Mother

Two recent motherhood studies addressed the reproductive risks associated with neglect and abuse.

One study, published in Pediatrics, focused on the statistics of adolescent girls who have suffered sexual abuse or neglect. The research linked a correlation of abuse victims to an increased likelihood of being teen mothers by 20 percent. That is five times higher than the national child birth rates of teenagers in general in the US.

Although birth rates among teenagers have been on a steady decline in the last twenty years, the US still has one of the highest teen birth rates among all industrialized nations.

The researchers analyzed a group of girls aged between 14 and 17 with an average household income of $30,000 to $39,000. Nearly 57 percent of the girls were from single-parent households. Of the participants, 48 percent were black and eight percent were biracial or multiracial. The group was composed of teens that had been victimized within the past year and others of similar ages and backgrounds who had not suffered abuse or neglect.

The results found that regardless of a girl’s race, socioeconomic status, and number of parents in the home, abuse was the common factor resulting in an increase of teen motherhood at or before the age of 19. An unhealthy approach to promiscuous sexual activity was attributed to traumatic sexualization and neglect.

The other study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) of Psychiatry, linked the heightened occurrence of autism in offspring to mothers whom had suffered abuse in their childhood. Women plagued with childhood abuse and neglect were three times more likely to have a child with autism in comparison to non-abused women.

Data was collected from the Nurses’ Health Study II where researchers reviewed 52,949 women who reported (in 2005) whether or not they had a child with autism. They were then asked to complete a questionnaire regarding their experiences with childhood abuse. Of those in the group, 451 had autistic children (52,498 did not). Once researchers factored in the questionnaire responses, they found the highest level of abuse was associated with the greatest prevalence of autism.

[Image via Shutterstock]