Parents Who Use Force to Discipline May Increase Autism Risk in Their Grandchildren

This Just In 21

autism awarenessRecent research suggests that women who have been abused as children were more likely to have a child diagnosed with autism. The women who endured the most stress from physical and emotional abuse were 60 percent more likely to have a child on the spectrum. Those who were abused physically, emotionally, and sexually had a 3.5 times higher rate of having a child with autism.

Everything that we do and everything that happens to us does have an effect not only on us but our children. And how we treat our own children, and what types of discipline we choose, may effect not only our kids but our grandchildren. Which is very frightening.

The Harvard School of Public Health conducted the study with lead author Andrea L. Roberts. They looked at data from over 52,000 women for over 20 years. The abuse these women suffered in childhood ranged from being struck by a belt or other object, cruel punishments, or hit hard enough to be bruised. They were asked if they had ever been insulted or screamed at and also if there was any sexual misconduct.

They have an idea why this happens and it's because those who have been abused respond to stress in a heightened manner, which leads to higher stress hormones, which can affect the fetus' brain. Roberts, the study's author said:

As a society, we need to focus more on how children are cared for and give more support to families who might be at risk for abusing their children.

There was a child found locked in a cage by his dad. This happens more than we even know. There are people, monsters, like Jerry Sandusky. There are children whipped with a belt repeatedly for acting out. And, to me, none of that is justifiable. How can you strike a child like that for being "bad" when hitting is a bad thing to do? How does that teach a lesson? Spanking has been shown to make our children more aggressive and while some think it helps a child learn how not to act out at that moment, it fails to teach the correct behavior in the long run.

I think as parents we need to be very, very careful about teaching our children right from wrong, and we may not always choose the right ways to handle things. Parenting is hard. We do make mistakes, too. Thank goodness we don't have someone with a belt waiting to whip us when we slip up. We also have to learn from those mistakes. And learn the best ways to discipline without causing harm. Hitting our children is wrong and can hurt them, cause them stress throughout their life, and increase the risk of autism in our grandchildren as this study suggests.

Some may think that's easy for me to say because I do not believe in any form of corporal punishment for a child. I do not spank my kids. I am also not going to tell another parent the best way to parent. But I do believe we all need to be mindful that children deserve respect. They may be little but they feel big feelings -- feelings that last a lifetime, feelings that may even affect their own children's health. That kind of punishment leaves scars ... and not just the visible kinds. And those scars can in turn hurt future generations. We, of course, also need to help victims of abuse -- to find better ways for them to deal with that kind of stress.

What do you think of these findings?


Image via BLW Photography/Flickr

autism, developmental delays, discipline


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nonmember avatar Rory Gilmore

That's great news for those who think autism rates are out of control. Parents these days rarely discipline their kids, so the next generations should have no autism! Seriously, though, it seems like every week there is a new theory about autism. In the past year alone, this site has reported the following potential causes: vaccines, advanced paternal age, living within 1000 miles of a freeway, and now maternal abuse (there may be more, but I can't recall them all). It's just too much!

LostS... LostSoul88

A simple eye roll is all that's good for this

eye rolling

LostS... LostSoul88

I wanted to add i am SICK AND TIRED of women always being blamed for this.

I was beat as a child and severally emotionally abused .I was molested from age 5-7 and raped at 14. I have two wonderful children who aren't autistic. 


Alynn74 Alynn74

So, did anyone evaluate the women to see if they fell somewhere on the spectrum?? Back then, the knowledge of autism was absolutely zilch unless they did exhibit characteristic from the severe end of th spectrum and where locked away in asylums. Any child that would be considered moderate to high functioning or would have Aspergers today, back then, would have been considered a bad child and the standard form of discipline would fall under physical and emotiona abuse in today's standds. Parents then would have just tried to"beat it out f them".

This study is dumb and I agree with LostSoul88's eye roll.

Rhond... RhondaVeggie

How efficient. You can now screw up two generations by beating your kids. Excellent news for bad parents.

Stoph... Stophitting

In 19 U.S. states today it is legal for school teachers, coaches and administrators to hit children K-12 with wooden paddles to inflict pain as punishment for minor infractions and No safety standards. Some states such as Alabama, Florida and Tennessee do Not require parental consent or knowledge/notification for children to be hit in school. April is "National Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month" as well as "National Autism Awareness Month" yet schoolchildren are discriminatorily physically punished in taxpayer funded public schools, disproportionately boys, disabled, even autistic, low-income and minority students are paddled, often repeatedly. According to latest U.S. Dept. of Education, Office for Civil Rights statistics over 223,000 children are hit in schools each year with approx. 20,000 seeking emergency medical treatment for injuries.

Stoph... Stophitting

"Teacher Immunity Laws" protect school employees from criminal/civil action when children are injured by school corporal punishment. The U.S. Supreme Court declines to hear school corporal punishment appeals, leaving No legal remedy for families of children injured by school corporal punishment. See brutally violent injuries by U.S. Public School corporal punishment at YouTube video for Documentary Movie "The Board of Education" by Jared Abrams. Search "A Violent Education" 2008 Study by Human Rights Watch and ACLU for disturbing facts. April 2013 No Re-Introduction of proposed Federal bill H.R. 3027 "The Ending Corporal Punishment in Schools Act" Cost $0 due to lack of Federal Lawmakers sponsors, yet Federal Law Prohibits Corporal Punishment in ALL U.S. Prisons! dont hit students dot com

Happy... Happydad73

Wait a minute, I thought vaccines cause autism. Or was it additives in food? No wait, it was lead paint. Or maybe pet dander. Lets face it, like dyslexia, autism is in the wiring of the brain. Yes I feel for these parents, but blaming everything under the sun does not change the fact that while they are in the womb, a baby's brain develops the neural pathways that determine its funcionality as it grows. Spankings don't cause autism any more than they cause down syndrome or dyslexia or caner.

Chari... Charizma77

I had a lovely childhood and my son has autism.  Hmm...

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