06 May 2008

Autism - may lie with parents

Research shows parents of autistic children are almost twice as likely to be hospitalised with mental disorders as other parents, which may help pinpoint the causes of autism.

Parents of autistic children are almost twice as likely to be hospitalised with mental disorders as other mothers and fathers, a study showed in what may help pinpoint the causes of autism.

"Our research shows that mothers and fathers diagnosed with schizophrenia were about twice as likely to have a child diagnosed with autism," said study author Julie Daniels.

"We also saw higher rates of depression and personality disorders among mothers, but not fathers," she said of the study in the journal Paediatrics.

How the research was done
Researchers at the University of North Carolina's School of Public Health analysed Swedish birth and hospital records looking at some 1 237 children born between 1977 and 2003 who were diagnosed as autistic before the age of 10.

The results were then compared against some 30 925 control subjects matched according to gender, the year of their birth and hospital. "Establishing an association between autism and other psychiatric disorders might enable future investigators to better focus on genetic and environmental factors that might be shared among these disorders," said Daniels.

Autism is a neuropsychiatric disorder that impairs a child's ability to communicate and interact with others. The disorder appears to have been rising massively in developed countries during the past two decades, but experts remain divided as to why and what its causes are.

Daniels, an associate professor at the school, said the study could help researchers study other diseases, such as psychiatric illnesses, for the causes of autism. "It may eventually help identify opportunities to prevent or treat the disorder," she added. – (Sapa)

May 2008

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