Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Autism Correlation To Father's Age: Part II

Via Ann Althouse, here is one way to spin this information:

Older dads are more likely to produce autistic kids, according to a huge study. The risk is 0.06 percent if the child is born in your 20s; 0.09 percent if it's in your 30s; 0.32 percent in your 40s, and 0.52 percent in your 50s. The mom's age makes no difference. Feminist spin: Finally, we can blame dads instead of moms for causing a defect by delaying parenthood. Biological-clock spin: Did we mention that if you delay fatherhood, your kids are also likely to be dumber? Anti-dork spin: Maybe guys likely to have autistic kids tend not to become dads as early as other guys. (For Human Nature's previous update on the male biological clock, click here.)
Maybe William Saletan wouldn't be so cheeky about the "feminist spin" if for generations the Autism wasn't attributed to having a "Refrigerator Mother", but "good science" said that it was.

Psychologist Bruno Bettelheim and other mental health professionals championed the notion that autism was the product of mothers who were cold, distant and rejecting, thus deprived of the chance to 'bond properly'. The theory was embraced by the medical establishment and went largely unchallenged into the mid-1960s, but its effects have lingered into the 21st century.

As early as 1943, Leo Kanner, who first identified autism, called attention to what appeared to him as a lack of parental warmth and attachment among the mothers of autistic children. In a 1949 paper, he suggested autism may be related to a "genuine lack of maternal warmth." In a 1960 Time magazine interview, Kanner bluntly described such mothers as "just happening to defrost enough to produce a child."

Not to be overly sensitive about it, mothers are implicated in nearly every childhood ill, so pushing the Klieg light away even momentarily can be a relief.

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