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

autism blocksRecent 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 chrupka/shutterstock

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