Parents of Children with Autism Curtail Reproduction After Signs of Disorder


Bottom Line: Parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) appear to curtail attempts to have more children after the first signs of the disorder manifest or a diagnosis is made.

Authors: Thomas J. Hoffmann, Ph.D., of the University of California, San Francisco, and colleagues.

Background: ASD is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder. Few studies have focused on reproductive stoppage by parents after a child is diagnosed with ASD or symptoms appear.

How the Study Was Conducted: Authors identified patients with ASD born from 1990 through 2003 in California. A total of 19,710 families in which the first birth occurred during the study period were identified. The families included 39,361 individuals (siblings and half-siblings). A group of 36,215 control families (including 75,724 individuals) also were identified that had no individuals with an ASD diagnosis.

Results:  For the first few years after the birth of a child with ASD, parents’ reproductive behavior was similar to that of the control families. But birth rates differed in subsequent years with families whose first child had ASD having a second child at a rate of 0.668 that of control families. Women who changed partners had a slightly stronger curtailment in reproduction with a relative rate of 0.553 for a second child.

Discussion: “These results are, to our knowledge, the first to quantify reproductive stoppage in families affected by ASD by using a large, population-based sample of California families.”

(JAMA Psychiatry. Published online June 18, 2014. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2014.420.