More Mental Illness Among Parents of Autistic Children

May 5, 2008

Parents of autistic children are more likely to be hospitalized due to mental illness than their counterparts whose children are not autistic, according to study findings published in the May issue of Pediatrics.

MONDAY, May 5 (HealthDay News) -- Parents of autistic children are more likely to be hospitalized due to mental illness than their counterparts whose children are not autistic, according to study findings published in the May issue of Pediatrics.

Julie L. Daniels, Ph.D., of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, and colleagues conducted a study of 1,227 Swedish children whose hospital records indicated a diagnosis of autism and 30,693 control subjects matched by gender, year of birth and hospital. Inpatient diagnostic records were used to assess the mental health of parents and covered schizophrenia, other non-affective psychoses, substance abuse, autism and affective, neurotic and personality disorders.

Hospitalization for mental disorders was more widespread among parents of autistic children than among the controls, the investigators found. Schizophrenia was more common among both mothers and fathers, while depression was more common among mothers of autistic children versus those in the control group.

"Identifying families with a propensity for rare psychiatric conditions may help uncover rare genes that contribute to the susceptibility of both disorders," the authors write. "Future studies that have the ability to contact families directly for detailed information should confirm both parent's and child's diagnosis, consider more extended family members, and consider more mild psychiatric conditions treated on an outpatient basis, as well as subclinical personality traits consistent with the broader autism phenotype," they add.

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