Autism and Parental Behavior

Has it been shown in any rigorous studies that parental behavior (after a baby is born) can cause or worsen autism? Someone recently told me that a parent spending too much time on a device (like a mobile phone) may exacerbate a child’s autism.

To me, this sounds like BS and is reminiscent of the refrigerator mother theory of autism which has, I believe, been discredited.

I searched around but couldn’t find anything either way. I’m not really that skilled at searching for scholarly research, and, not having an autistic child myself, I don’t even know which websites are good and which are crocks.

Answered your own question, and correctly.

Autism is an organic brain dysfunction almost certainly rooted in genetics, and while lack of proper therapy (including very difficult and involved parental support of the therapy goals) can keep a child with autism from overcoming the deficits, very little (if anything) a caregiver does or doesn’t do triggers or causes it.

ETA: the whole argument sounds like a rehash of the BS that people absorbed by each generation of video games cause or have unspecified problems. So now it’s smartphones causing all the world’s troubles. Right.

Thanks, and I agree with you. However, I was hoping to show my friend some studies debunking it.

If you take it in broad interpretation, it’s probably true. Generally speaking, if a parent is ignoring a child because of long periods of time spent in recreational screen time, that parent is not meeting the child’s needs. So if a child has special needs, including a special need for social training, the parents neglect is making the issue worse .

But neglect is bad mkay, it has nothing to with screen time per se. It’s just as bad if a parent is neglectful because they spend all their time volunteering at the homeless shelter, reading books, or whatever.

Well, part of it is true, sort of.

An attentive caring parent willing to take the time, effort and money to provide the best care and therapy available can sometimes help their autistic child to learn coping mechanisms and make them better able to work with our world. Unfortunately some autistics can not improve enough to really be fully functional.

And in a sense, I would imagine that if the parents of an autistic kid that neglects to get the kid any sort of medical care, psychological care and management therapies the poor kid is stuck in their own head and nonfunctional.

They may be out there, but as you’ve found, the intersection of autism and the web is about as insane as the one between, say, Obamacare or Lee Harvey Oswald or Roswell and the web.

You might be able to find some somewhat older studies about being distracted by television, video games, work etc. - just not specifically the devices Best Buy sells this week.

ETA: Studies that confirm the root organic/genetic causes of autism and show the lack of influence of family and caregiver circumstances should be readily available as well. Millions of kids grow up normal (or at least not autistic) in poor family situations; many autistic children come from the most devoted, caring families around. No link. None.

Thanks all. I guess it’s difficult to do real double-blind studies with families as the subject. Oh well.

The other thing that makes it difficult is that these studies are expensive, difficult, and time consuming, while inventing new baseless explanations is as easy as just saying “I reckon it’s the iPads what is doing it!” We are never going to be able to systematically disprove all the wackos out there. The best way to move forward is to spend our time figuring out what actually IS going on, which should, in theory, put to bed all alternate explanations (though the conspiracy people rarely bother to worry about reality in practice). However, as long as that understanding is still being worked out, there’s lots of room for people to make up their own stories.

There also isn’t much need for it, unless you’re a researcher who lives from grant to grant.

The causes have been well-enough established that finding fringe reasons for some small number of cases isn’t useful (yes, bees get into people’s cars and cause accidents… and your point?). Also like car accidents, the cause is an interesting area of study and has its useful directions, but once autism (or accident trauma) exists, the concern is effective treatment, not parsing how the patient got that way.