Parents of autistic children stop reproducing after diagnosis

Parents who have one autistic child often stop reproducing after that child is diagnosed a new study published in JAMA psychiatry online journals suggest.

Parents whose first child has autism are a third less likely to have a second child compared with parents with a normally developing first child, the researchers found.

Thomas J. Hoffmann, PhD, of the Institute for Human Genetics at the University of California, San Francisco, and colleagues writes:

“These findings have implications for recurrence risk estimation and genetic counselling”.

Many previous studies have estimated the likelihood that siblings of a child with autism will also have autism. But these estimates could be biased if they do not take into consideration the tendency of parents of affected children to avoid having a second child, researchers write.

To fill that gap, the researchers identified 19,710 first-born children with autism born from 1990 through 2003 in California. The families included 39,361 individuals. For comparison purposes, the researchers identified a group of 36,215 control families (with 75,724 individuals) in which there was no autism diagnosis.

Ultimately, parents of a child with autism had a second child at a rate of 0.668 that of control families.

Women who changed partners after having a child with autism had a slightly stronger curtailment in reproduction. They had second children at 0.553 the rate of families without an autism diagnosis.