Friday, April 8, 2011

Autism Linked to College-Educated Parents

A recent posting by Josh Clark (Discovery News), NEWS: Autism Clusters Tied to College-Educated Parents, describes a recent epidemiological study by the University of California, Davis, that found clusters of autism in regions of Southern California with high concentrations of highly educated parents.

The study by Dr. Karla Van Meter, published in the journal Autism Research, examined the birth records for 2.4 million California births between 1996 and 2000, 10,000 of whom were later diagnosed with autism. Van Meter and colleagues found a difference in the rate of autism in areas of highly educated parents to be almost double that of nearby areas with lower levels of parental education. They also found that the prevalence of autism increased with the amount of education.

There is still considerable debate about the causes of autism. While, there is no logical mechanism for the education of parents to directly cause the disorder, other studies have shown a correlation between the age of parents and the incidence of autism. Highly educated parents tend to delay child rearing, partially in order to finish school and partly to give themselves time to establish themselves in the competitive and demanding careers for which they are training. Therefore, one possible explanation for Van Meter’s observations is that high degrees of education correlate with delayed child rearing and that it is actually the advanced age of the parents that is the causative factor.

Ironically, college-educated middle class California families are among those most likely to skip vaccinations out of the irrational (and refuted) fear that vaccines cause autism.

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