Latest News » Study: Does a mom’s birthplace determine her child’s autism risk?

A new study found that children of foreign-born black, Hispanic and Asian mothers were more likely to develop autism.

Although scientific knowledge of autism — what causes it, whether or not it can be cured and defining just what exactly the spectrum is — has come a long way over the past few decades, a thorough understanding of the neurodevelopmental condition continues to elude researchers. It feels like every week features some new development or possible breakthrough in autism research, and while this may frustrate some, it's critical to investigate as many leads as possible in order to get closer to better learning how to treat those living on the spectrum.

A new study conducted at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), may have found a potential link between a mother's birthplace and whether or not their child will develop an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). HealthDay News reports that children of foreign-born black mothers were 76 percent more likely to have an ASD compared to those of U.S.-born white mothers. Foreign-born Central American, South American, Filipino and Vietnamese mothers also exhibited a greater risk of giving birth to children with autism.

Despite the apparent associations between race, a mother's birthplace and the likelihood for an ASD, this study does not definitively conclude that either of those factors are causes for autism. The study's lead researcher, Dr. Beate Ritz, chair of epidemilogy at UCLA's Fielding School of Public Health, did speculate, however, that the link between these three may be owed less to racial differences and more to generational stress.

"[It is possible that] a child is more likely to develop an ASD if the mother emigrated from a country which had political unrest or wars in the recent past," Ritz told the source. HealthDay News continues, "The mother giving birth may have witnessed atrocities of war or other trauma as a child, perhaps programming her to react to stress in a certain way […] and that could affect the baby's 'brain wiring.'"

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