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Written by, Courtney Kidd, LMSW, SJS Staff Writer
Childhood abuse as a predictive variable in who will have an autistic child. A study put on by JAMA Psychiatry studied 50,000 women, looking at medical records, answered questions relating to childhood abuse(physical, sexual or emotional) and whether they had a child on the autism spectrum. The results could mean you’ll reconsider the spanking. Women who were abused as children were found to have a 1 in 50 chance of having a child with autism, as compared to 1 in 88(CDC, 2012). The more severe the abuse, the higher the chances became.
A few explanations have come up. The first is women who have been abused are more likely to make unhealthy choices, such as smoking, drinking, and drugs. This didn’t account for much in the study, about 7%. The other discussion was the long lasting impact that childhood abuse leave on a person’s body, specially the stress hormone. Our biology changes, and our environment can alter the balance of our brain chemicals. We are aware that a higher level of stress hormones can increase the chances of autism in the next generation. Children who are abused often have higher levels of these hormones, and can be linked with higher rates of depression, anxiety, mood disorders, etc.
This makes the need for education and intervention even more pressing. The long term effects of abuse is often disputed. The definition of what abuse is comes up a lot. Is abuse spanking your child? Does it begin when you raise your hand? Or does abuse start when it is repetitive, overly harmful and damaging? The more we understand about long term consequences might make us reevaluate just what it is we consider abuse.