Tuesday, February 9, 2010

New study, recently published in the February issue of the journal Autism Research suggests advanced maternal age is linked to a significantly elevated risk of having a child with autism. Researchers at the University of California - Davis investigated births in California during the 1990s and created one of the largest studies to quantify how each parent's age, separately and together, affects the risk of having a child with autism.

The study found that the risk of having a child with autism increased by nearly one fifth for every five-year increase in the mother's age. For example, a 40-year-old woman's risk of having a child later diagnosed with autism was 50 percent greater than that of a woman between 25 and 29 years old.

Previous research has shown contradictory results regarding whether it is the mother, the father or both who contribute most to the increased risk of autism. This study challenges a current theory in autism research that suggests only the father's age is a key factor in increasing the risk of having a child with autism. This study shows that maternal age may be more important.

Autism is a pervasive developmental disorder of deficits in social skills and communication, as well as repetitive and restricted behaviors, with onset occurring prior to age 3. Abnormal brain development, probably beginning in the womb, is known to be fundamental to the behaviors that characterize autism. Current estimates place the incidence of autism at between 1 in 100 and 1 in 110 children in the United States.

More research is still needed to understand why older parents put their children at greater risk for autism and other adverse outcomes.

Read the full article here:

Autism and Maternal Age

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