Wednesday, May 7, 2008

New study shows possible link between parental mental illnesses and autism

The Science Daily reports that parents of children with autism were roughly twice as likely to have been hospitalized for a mental illness, such as schizophrenia, than parents of children without autism, according to an analysis of Swedish birth and hospital records by a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researcher and colleagues in the U.S. and Europe. The study appears in the May 5 issue of the journal Pediatrics.

"Our research shows that mothers and fathers diagnosed with schizophrenia were about twice as likely to have a child diagnosed with autism. We also saw higher rates of depression and personality disorders among mothers, but not fathers," said study author Julie Daniels, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the UNC School of Public Health's epidemiology and maternal and child health departments.

The study examined 1,237 children born between 1977 and 2003 who were diagnosed with autism before age 10, and compared them with 30,925 control subjects matched for gender, year of birth and hospital. The large sample size enabled researchers to distinguish between psychiatric histories of mothers versus fathers in relation to autism.