Study Examines Link Between Maternal Exposure to Childhood Abuse, Autism Risk



JAMA Psychiatry Study Highlights


A study by Andrea L. Roberts, Ph.D., of the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, and colleagues suggests that maternal exposure to childhood abuse is associated with an increased risk for autism in their children. (Online First)


Researchers analyzed data from the Nurses’ Health Study II. Participants included nurses with data on maternal childhood abuse and the autism status of their children. A group of control participants was randomly selected from among children of women who did not report autism in offspring. The study included 451 mothers of children with autism and 52,498 mothers of children without autism).


The highest level of abuse was associated with the greatest prevalence of autism (1.8 percent vs. 0.7 percent among women not abused) and with the greatest risk for autism adjusted for demographic factors.


“Notably, women exposed to the highest level of physical and emotional abuse, comprising one-quarter of the women in our study, were at 61.1 percent elevated risk for having a child with autism compared with women not exposed to abuse,” the study concludes.

(JAMA Psychiatry. Published online March 20, 2013. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.447. Available pre-embargo to the media at


Editor’s Note: This study was funded by grants from the Department of Defense, the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command and the National Institutes of Health. Please see the article for additional information, including other authors, author contributions and affiliations, financial disclosures, funding and support, etc.

#  #  #

For more information, contact JAMA Network Media Relations at 312-464-JAMA (5262) or email