Parental age increases risk of autism
February 9, 2010 7:05 AM   Subscribe

Parental age increases risk of autism - a study published in Autism Research shows a significant increase in the risk of autism based on age of either the mother or father, and in relationship to each other.
posted by Argyle (68 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
No news there.
posted by clarknova at 7:18 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Doesn't parental age increase the risk of pretty much everything?
posted by ook at 7:21 AM on February 9, 2010 [8 favorites]


But while the number of California women giving birth in their 40s rose sharply in the 1990s, the researchers said that could not account for the sevenfold rise in autism during the decade.

“The rise in autism is occurring among children of parents of all ages,” said Janie F. Shelton, a graduate student in epidemiology at the University of California, Davis, who was the paper’s lead author. “We can’t say that the shifting trend of maternal age is responsible for the increased rates of autism.”


So what ook said.
posted by alasdair at 7:23 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's going to be very difficult to start a movement based on this. "You have only yourselves to blame" just doesn't sell books the way "blame those bad, evil scientists" does.
posted by klanawa at 7:24 AM on February 9, 2010 [13 favorites]


When I saw this being talked about yesterday, even the CNN talking heads were quick to point out that correlation does not equal causation and that it may be that mothers of increased age are wealthier (because they delayed childbearing for education and career advancement) and therefore are more likely to seek and obtain a diagnosis on the spectrum. I am not expressing an opinion either way.
posted by bunnycup at 7:33 AM on February 9, 2010 [6 favorites]


It's going to be very difficult to start a movement based on this. "You have only yourselves to blame" just doesn't sell books the way "blame those bad, evil scientists" does.

You'd be surprised.

I just recently got cable, and last night TLC aired a commercial with the basic thesis: "You are not changing your baby's diaper correctly because you're not engaging the baby in songs and learning and shit while its crying and wiggling. Your baby will grow up to be a failure because you're stressed out and not turning every freaking moment of its babyhood into a precious memory for all to share. Bitch."

Speaking about the actual study, aren't they talking about a 5% increase over a period of time when Autism spectrum diagnosis has increased 300%? I'm not really all that surprised.
posted by muddgirl at 7:35 AM on February 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


Oh wait, I'm probably mixing up my percentage scales.
posted by muddgirl at 7:39 AM on February 9, 2010


Also, I love the last line in the article:
“It’s important we not turn around and blame mothers,” Dr. Malaspina said. “The evidence is very, very strong that there is a paternal age effect.”
Yeah, don't turn around and blame the mothers when clearly it's the father's fault! Silly scientists!
posted by muddgirl at 7:40 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wonder if older parents who refuse to get their kids vaccinated will now simply stop having kids, or does protecting your child from autism only matter when it's somebody else's fault?
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:48 AM on February 9, 2010 [6 favorites]


Did anyone dig into this and find out whether they tried to control for parents' wealth and education?
posted by grobstein at 7:59 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Doesn't parental age increase the risk of pretty much everything?

In the South they used to say the cause was "Change of Life Baby" and the effect was "He's a Little Sweet"
posted by jefficator at 8:04 AM on February 9, 2010 [10 favorites]


Speaking about the actual study, aren't they talking about a 5% increase over a period of time when Autism spectrum diagnosis has increased 300%?

So parental age actually prevents autism?

“It’s important we not turn around and blame mothers,” Dr. Malaspina said.

Actually, this is a good point. The original explanation for autism was that it was a psychological trauma from a cold and distant mother, which caused some blaming and guilt and so forth.
posted by DU at 8:07 AM on February 9, 2010


I blame genetics. It's inherent in the parents, but it's not like it's consciously their faults.
posted by grubi at 8:13 AM on February 9, 2010


The important thing is we have to have someone to blame.
posted by RussHy at 8:15 AM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


So parental age actually prevents autism?

:)

Like I said, I was mixing up my percentage scales. 5% (or according to this article, up to 50% in the "worst cases" of older mothers and older fathers) is comparing rates of autism in children born to older couples vs younger couples. 300% is comparing rates of autism diagnosis or similary between, say, 1970 and 2000.
posted by muddgirl at 8:19 AM on February 9, 2010


You are not changing your baby's diaper correctly because you're not engaging the baby in songs and learning and shit while its crying and wiggling. Your baby will grow up to be a failure because you're stressed out and not turning every freaking moment of its babyhood into a precious memory for all to share.

well, that's when you have HIM change the diaper - duh
posted by pyramid termite at 8:21 AM on February 9, 2010


The important thing is we have to have someone to blame.
Ah, the ever-so-present and proteiform Just World Hypothesis..
posted by vivelame at 8:21 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I just recently got cable, and last night TLC aired a commercial with the basic thesis: "You are not changing your baby's diaper correctly because you're not engaging the baby in songs and learning and shit while its crying and wiggling. Your baby will grow up to be a failure because you're stressed out and not turning every freaking moment of its babyhood into a precious memory for all to share. Bitch."

I haven't seen that one, but I hate ads like that. Parents (especially new parents) don't need any prompting to feel guilty and nervous.
posted by zarq at 8:38 AM on February 9, 2010


[comments removed - this is not about vaccinations, maybe don't make it be about vaccinations?]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:39 AM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Didn't they say that older men paired with much younger women had a higher likelihood of having children with autism? Or did I misread that?

If that is true it would be a good argument for finding partners of your own generation...
posted by mareli at 8:51 AM on February 9, 2010


mareli- the study found that for the group of mothers under age 30, having an older father did increase the risk of bearing a child with autism, but once the maternal age passed 30, the age of the father did not have a significant effect.
posted by slow graffiti at 9:11 AM on February 9, 2010


There is some misunderstanding about the statistic that 5% of the overall rise in autism cases is attributable to advancing maternal age. They looked at total births in CA in 1990 and 1999, and noted that the age distribution for the 1999 group skewed older. They adjusted the 1990 group as if they had the same health risks of the older 1999 group, and then asked how many excess cases of autism were found in 1999 after the adjustment. That excess was 5% more than the expected number of cases after the risk adjustment, which can only be accounted for by the age difference between the groups.
posted by slow graffiti at 9:29 AM on February 9, 2010


If you're past fifty and want to have kids, you're the one who should be examined for mental illness.
posted by digsrus at 9:30 AM on February 9, 2010


My Dad was 53 when I was born, older when my younger brother was born - we are his 6th and 7th children, respectively. He loves being a Dad. I'm thankful for that, and that no one told him he was mentally ill for it. As much as life has been a rough path for other reasons, it was a great, enriching, wonderful and fun experience to have a parent who was older. He'd been through the ropes - there is about a 10 year difference between me and my next older sister - he didn't freak out about every damn thing. He was at a more advanced stage of his career, I remember him taking off work a lot for snow days, ballet recitals, horse shows, football games, you name it. He had kids past 50 because he was crazy for having kids, and more people should be lucky enough to be born to parents who want them oh-so-much.
posted by bunnycup at 9:45 AM on February 9, 2010 [6 favorites]


Not talking about the ever- present and misguided hysteria of autism caused by vaccines in a study talking about possible causes of autism doesn't seem off topic to me.
posted by ExitPursuedByBear at 9:53 AM on February 9, 2010


""You are not changing your baby's diaper correctly because you're not engaging the baby in songs and learning and shit while its crying and wiggling."

If I sing, will she stop wiggling? 'Cause I'll go buy a $500 karaoke machine if she'd just sit still for the 3 minute process!
posted by madajb at 9:57 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm so pissed I can't find a video of this commercial. From memory, it starts with a really frustrated-looking woman and a baby that's screaming and wiggling and red-faced, then it cuts to a put-together "mommy" who is tickling the belly of a smiling and giggling little angel. The voice-over implying that if the first mom would only view changing time as an opportunity to bond with baby, the baby would... I don't know... magically stop being a sleepy, wet, stinky real baby and turn into the angelic baby.
posted by muddgirl at 10:16 AM on February 9, 2010


Until they find the actual gene marker, I'm not believing any of this.
posted by stormpooper at 10:30 AM on February 9, 2010


There is some misunderstanding about the statistic that 5% of the overall rise in autism cases is attributable to advancing maternal age.

More diagnosis of autism does not necessarily correlate with increased levels of autism. It's not like autism is a specific disease or defect that can be identified with a blood test. Autism is a basket of symptoms given a name.

"Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and is the result of a neurological disorder that affects the normal functioning of the brain, impacting development in the areas of social interaction and communication skills."

More autism may just be that more children are diagnosed with autism (as a result of increased awareness, better training of doctors, etc.)
posted by three blind mice at 10:41 AM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


From memory, it starts with a really frustrated-looking woman and a baby that's screaming and wiggling and red-faced, then it cuts to a put-together "mommy" who is tickling the belly of a smiling and giggling little angel. The voice-over implying that if the first mom would only view changing time as an opportunity to bond with baby, the baby would... I don't know... magically stop being a sleepy, wet, stinky real baby and turn into the angelic baby.

I would like to lock the advertising exec who came up with that ad in a room with two colicky infants and film their inevitable nervous breakdown.
posted by zarq at 10:45 AM on February 9, 2010


“It’s important we not turn around and blame mothers,” Dr. Malaspina said.

That is a very odd thing for a research scientist to say.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:09 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I posit a cause of both--people who aren't very socially apt and/or inclined take longer to pair up and make babies. The same genes that cause their social differences are passed along, sometimes expressing themselves as autism.
posted by kathrineg at 11:27 AM on February 9, 2010


Until they find the actual gene marker, I'm not believing any of this.

Disorders linked to parental age are usually due to an increased rate of nondisjunction or an increased error rate in DNA replication. The former is easy to detect and isn't responsible for autism. The latter would be difficult to identify, especially if many different point mutations could lead to the same effect.

Others have given valid reasons to be skeptical of this particular finding, but ignoring all epidemiological evidence just on general principle is a bit silly. It seems perfectly clear at this point that there are definite increased risks associated with giving birth later in life.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 11:42 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


bunnycup - glad you loved your dad. My dad, who is brightish by all accounts, is the child of a not-so-young mother (who had has several children before, which is not insignificant) and an elderly father.

On the other hand, I used to volunteer with a program for disabled children. For the first few months, I thought it was sweet that most of the children had grandparents would bring them out to the center and watch them (and I assumed, give the parents some time off). Then I mentioned my sentiment to a nurse who frowned and explained that these parents, not grandparents, and there was a link between their age and children's disabilities.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 12:07 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


How about this idea for a narrative biasy explanation. Maybe autistic spectrum parents are likely to have kids later in life. Thats my guess.
posted by I Foody at 1:12 PM on February 9, 2010


Then I mentioned my sentiment to a nurse who frowned and explained that these parents, not grandparents, and there was a link between their age and children's disabilities.

I'm honestly having a hard time getting worked up over this. Older men and women have just as much reproductive freedom as younger folks. If they are aware of the risks and the options and chose to conceive at an older age, and bear a child who is loved and cared for... what's the issue?

And there's this tone, not necessarily just in Lesser Shrew's comment but in this whole framework of studies on rates of disability, that having no children at all is obviously preferable to having a child who is disabled.
posted by muddgirl at 1:29 PM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


It makes sense that older mothers would have more autistic babies. The older women are more busy and therefore more likely to be cold to the baby.
posted by Mayor Curley at 1:41 PM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


That is a very odd thing for a research scientist to say.

Maybe a little, but given what's happened with the public views of autism in the past decade, if I was a researcher I would probably be quite worried what some people might end up doing with my research (taken out of context, etc).
posted by wildcrdj at 1:59 PM on February 9, 2010


If you're past fifty and want to have kids, you're the one who should be examined for mental illness.

digsrus, I am going to type all the things I think of you, and then delete what meets Metafilter's standards for "healthy, respectful discussion by focusing comments on the issues, topics, and facts at hand—not at other members of the site."

, , , of .
.
a of .
I don't even know - maybe when all of , the , , in the .

.


There. That feels better.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:35 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


what's the issue?

There is a difference between what is allowed and what is wise.
posted by Justinian at 3:05 PM on February 9, 2010


Oh great. I just turned 40 and my first kid is about to be born in a month.
posted by RockCorpse at 3:08 PM on February 9, 2010


There is a difference between what is allowed and what is wise.

Nas and my momma agree: Life's a bitch and then you die.

Having a kid with disabilities can be hard, but it's not like, the worst thing ever. Implying otherwise is to imply that people with disabilities are worth less than fully able people, and I don't think that's a territory anyone seriously wants to approach.
posted by muddgirl at 3:12 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


After posting: I'm not trying to argue that we should do research into why certain groups conceive children with disabilities at higher rates. I'm not even saying we shouldn't investigate how to deal with some of these risk factors.

I'm saying (a) we shouldn't stigmatize older people who make the choice to conceive a child and (b) we absolutely shouldn't stigmatize children with disabilities or imply that they are less desired or worth less than able children.
posted by muddgirl at 3:14 PM on February 9, 2010


Replace "should" with "shouldn't" above.
posted by muddgirl at 3:15 PM on February 9, 2010


muddgirl, this is very difficult for me to confront and talk about but I wanted to underscore what you are saying. My daughter was born with a genetic defect that gave her cancer, and she died of the cancer at 10 months old on February 17, 2009. I love her with my whole soul, and the idea that she would have been better if she didn't have a genetic disorder - that she was somehow not as good as other babies, or bad or imperfect, is heart-breaking. I wouldn't have loved her more, and she wouldn't have been more worthy as a human being, if she had't had an INI1 mutation resulting in brain cancer. It's hard for me sometimes to wish she hadn't had cancer, because somehow, some part of me, feels like that implies she wasn't good enough, as was. On the other hand, my whole soul also supports research that can prevent future children from being born and facing that tragedy. This does not include the idea that those children don't deserve to be, or shouldn't be, born.
posted by bunnycup at 3:34 PM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


muddgirl: First, you keep addressing this only from the perspective of the parents. "Having a kid with..." or "if they choose...". Except the parents aren't the ones who have to experience the disability first-hand. It's the child born with the disability that suffers. So there's that. I'm certainly not saying that people with disabilities are worthless but, believe me, it's better to not have a serious disability than to have a serious one. Do you think any reasonable person would argue that Down Syndrome isn't a really bad thing?

It's important to consider it from this perspective because it affects the decision of when it's wisest to have children. There are often economic reasons to delay having them. But those must be weighed against the very real medical reasons not to delay it too long.

Lastly, it simply isn't the case that saying having a kid without a disability is better than having a kid with a disability when you're considering it from the (more important) point of view of the kid, rather than the parents. If you asked someone who couldn't walk, wouldn't most of them say they'd rather be able to walk? That's not stigmatization, it's truth. Pretending that there is no difference between someone with a serious disability and someone with one in terms of average quality of life serves neither the able-bodied nor the disabled (physical or mental).

Life is hard and shitty enough. It's best not to stick your kids with something making it even harder and shittier, if you can avoid it.
posted by Justinian at 3:37 PM on February 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


Good luck parsing the first sentence of my third paragraph. It's a riddle!
posted by Justinian at 3:40 PM on February 9, 2010


It's known that the risk of one genetic defect does increase as mothers get older: Down Syndrome. This has been shown consistently by multiple studies.

This is a single study that links maternal and paternal age to an increased incidence of autism spectrum disorders in the children they bear. Its range was also restricted to a single US state. One study, no matter how large the sample size, doesn't prove anything. In fact, this study's results conflict with previous research:
The new findings appeared to question the conclusions of earlier research suggesting that the risk of autism spectrum disorders increased with advancing paternal age, but not with advancing maternal age.
It seems the jury is still out on the subject.

This raises more questions than answers.
But while the number of California women giving birth in their 40s rose sharply in the 1990s, the researchers said that could not account for the sevenfold rise in autism during the decade. “The rise in autism is occurring among children of parents of all ages,” said Janie F. Shelton, a graduate student in epidemiology at the University of California, Davis, who was the paper’s lead author. “We can’t say that the shifting trend of maternal age is responsible for the increased rates of autism.”
[Emphasis mine]
posted by zarq at 4:26 PM on February 9, 2010


klanawa: It's going to be very difficult to start a movement based on this. "You have only yourselves to blame" just doesn't sell books the way "blame those bad, evil scientists" does.

I'd blame society. A lot of paths through life, like scientist for example, will not be financially solvent enough to care for children until well into their thirties. And that's assuming you go straight through - delay or try any other paths, and you finish even later.
posted by Mitrovarr at 4:48 PM on February 9, 2010


Autism is highly heritable; no one should think that one factor like maternal age explains autism.

The seeming boom in autism is at least partially due to a relatively new willingness to diagnose mild autism and aspergers (a very new diagnosis), as opposed to simply diagnosing more severe cases. Additionally, as diagnostic technique has advanced, autistic children are less likely to be incorrectly diagnosed with, say, simple mental retardation. Now that greater access to public education for children with special needs is mandated by law, there is a much greater incentive to have one's child officially diagnosed.

So, to some extent, we have created the epidemic of autism by increasing awareness of autism.
posted by kathrineg at 5:27 PM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: stop being a sleepy, wet, stinky real baby and turn into the angelic baby
posted by aetg at 6:11 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'd blame society. A lot of paths through life, like scientist for example, will not be financially solvent enough to care for children until well into their thirties. And that's assuming you go straight through - delay or try any other paths, and you finish even later.

As a mathematician who had kids in my mid-20s, I can confidently say that financial solvency is overrated. Having young kids during the struggle of a PhD actually gave me awesome reasons to come home at night, as well as the best dissertation dedication ever. Money isn't good for a whole lot when it comes down to it.
posted by monkeymadness at 5:45 AM on February 10, 2010


...but, believe me, it's better to not have a serious disability than to have a serious one. Do you think any reasonable person would argue that Down Syndrome isn't a really bad thing?

OK, let's turn this around and talk about people born with disabilities then.

Do you read Feminists with Disabilities? It's a great blog that talks about reproductive health issues all the time.

Anyway, they're most important thesis, and the thesis that is advanced by nearly everyone who seriously and thoughtfully studies disability activisim, is that society is the main contributor to any disability. Having Down syndrome or Autism or a physical disability is almost always a function of not having equal access in society. Turn turn around and blame Autism for that lack of access is like saying women's right to vote was restricted because they are the weaker sex (rather than because of cultural discrimination).
posted by muddgirl at 7:09 AM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Gosh, that post is full of errors.
posted by muddgirl at 7:13 AM on February 10, 2010


Yes, society should provide equal access to people with autism. Someone saying "oh, he can't be in the play, he's autistic" is a great example--he CAN be in the play, we just need to change it up.

Saying "autistic people have significant impairment in their ability to communicate" is a fact. Yes, that impairment can be treated and mitigated and accepted, but it still exists. It often makes it much harder for them to get their needs met. That is not a societal creation, it is a result of autism.
posted by kathrineg at 7:41 AM on February 10, 2010


I think you're misunderstanding me, kathrineg.

To an austitic child, autism is normal. They can't experience any other way of thinking. Just as to my father, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is normal (although he remembers a time before his brain fog and physical fatigue were ever-present, that time has passed). To others in my family, depression is normal. To me, having scoliosis is normal. It sucks sometimes, just like being a woman sucks sometimes. We can mitigate this suckiness in a lot of ways - some of them societal, some of them personal. But to claim that people who are disabled wish that they met some platonic ideal is sort of trivializing their experience, and assumes there's One True Normal that everyone aspires to.
posted by muddgirl at 7:55 AM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


But to claim that people who are disabled wish that they met some platonic ideal is sort of trivializing their experience, and assumes there's One True Normal that everyone aspires to.

I see what you're saying and generally agree. But I'd like to add that there are quite a few people who are disabled who would prefer not to be, and their reasoning has little to do with an imbalance of rights or someone else's judgment or ideals.

My father lost the use of his legs at a relatively young age, and it made his life extremely difficult. In general, his problem was not access to assistance nor the way he was perceived by others in our society. However, he remembered being able to walk, run, play ball and perform simple / complex tasks with his legs, like swimming, standing or dancing. As a result, he knew what he used to be able to do and no longer could. While someone with Downs obviously won't remember living without the condition, in my experience they usually do observe and recognize that they are different from people who are.

Sometimes, the "Ideal Normal" you're referring to isn't imposed from without, but from within.
posted by zarq at 8:17 AM on February 10, 2010


But I guess my problem is that Justinian seems to be arguing that people with Down syndrome, or people born with physical deformities, or people born with Autism, would rather they hadn't been born in the first place.

I don't believe in souls, so I know that if I had been born a boy (and thus with a much lower chance of developing scoliosis), I would not be me. So wishing that I was born without the possibility of getting scoliosis would be wishing that I had never existed.

So yes, people with disabilities may wish that they were magically cured of whatever is limiting them, but do they wish that they're parents had never conceived them in the first place?
posted by muddgirl at 8:31 AM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


muddgirl, maybe some do. Probably many do not. I don't think we can make a big conclusion and say "Disabled people feel THIS way, not THAT way."

But, I think the more accepting and accommodating society can be, the more respectful and inclusive and kind, the more we can have these discussions and make the world a more equitable place, then people who suffer from a wide range of challenges - disability and otherwise - will have positive, loved lives. I don't disagree at all with your critique of Justinian's comment, however.
posted by bunnycup at 8:38 AM on February 10, 2010


Well, maybe some of them do. I don't think you can make a blanket statement one way or the other. Certainly some people do wish they had never been born, because their life sucks.

You're veering off into arguing against euthanasia when you start talking about people who are already living.

Before people are born, it's perfectly reasonable (and I think, a moral duty) to consider what burdens will be placed on them by their birth. Autism is a heavy burden indeed.
posted by kathrineg at 8:45 AM on February 10, 2010


Anyway, I shouldn't use the phrase "some of them"; I certainly have multiple disabilities.
posted by kathrineg at 8:50 AM on February 10, 2010


Before people are born, it's perfectly reasonable (and I think, a moral duty) to consider what burdens will be placed on them by their birth.

There is an extent to which I don't disagree, but on the other hand I find that statement far more troubling or loaded than where muddgirl was going. While you can probably pick and choose some disorders in some situations where there might be a clear call, the kinds of disorders or social issues you might include are somewhat resistant to clear direction.

Should we make a distinction for high-functioning autistics, like Temple Grandin? Where on the spectrum should the line be drawn? What about disorders that may result in very severe problems, including cancer and death, or potentially none at all? What about chronic diseases, that require lots of medical intervention and hospitalization but an otherwise "normal" emotional life?

When you suggest considering the burdens to be placed on a child by their birth, my first thought (even though I know its not what you intended) is to think of movies like 2012 and climate change and peak oil. Should we not reproduce if we think our children are going to be afflicted by societal disorders and the fall of civilization? That is a heavy burden indeed. What if we know our child will be poor, hungry, have few or no societal support systems?

I'm not saying all of these considerations are reasonable, or were meant by you to be included in your comment, but to me they flow from the idea that we should consider whether a child is going to have a good enough life (measured by some unknown standard) before reproducing.
posted by bunnycup at 8:53 AM on February 10, 2010


All of those things do follow from my statement, and I think that we should think about all of those things before we decide to reproduce.

It's up to the individual(s) involved to make the final decision about reproduction, but I do think that everyone has the moral obligation to consider the comfort and well-being of any children we create. Will every child be happy, perfect, comfortable their whole life? No. And there are things that none of us can forsee. But those things that we can forsee can and should be taken into consideration.
posted by kathrineg at 9:23 AM on February 10, 2010


I don't disagree in general, but my concern, and the reason for posting those comments is - to what degree? There seems to be an undercurrent to what you and others are saying that a child who is going to be disabled shouldn't be brought into the world for its own good. I think a deeper examination beyond the pat "think about the child's welfare" is scary, and might keep a lot of good, happy people from being born (me included). I think it's easy to make the kind of statement that everyone can agree with, but when you look at it in reality and the kinds of decisions that would have to be made with very little certainty, then it quickly crosses a line.
posted by bunnycup at 9:28 AM on February 10, 2010


bunnycup: "There seems to be an undercurrent to what you and others are saying that a child who is going to be disabled shouldn't be brought into the world for its own good."

That one possible result of the thought process. Another possible result is "there is a chance that our child will be disabled, but we're prepared to deal with the disability and want to have a child anyway." Another possible result is "my life is so unstable that my child's first year of life will be enormously stressful, and that's not a risk I'm willing to take". Another possible result is "we don't have much money, but I think we'll get through this." Another possible result is "God will provide."

I think it's easy to make the kind of statement that everyone can agree with, but when you look at it in reality and the kinds of decisions that would have to be made with very little certainty, then it quickly crosses a line.

We decide to bring a child into the world, that's a decision. We decide not to bring a child into the world, that's another decision. I don't understand what line is being crossed.
posted by kathrineg at 9:47 AM on February 10, 2010


katherineg, I mentioned "and others" because I wanted to bring in Justinian's comments that it must be looked at from the perspective of the child, more than the parents. The idea that a child shouldn't be brought into the world because he or she might be disabled and thus wouldn't want to have been born, and the problems that flow from engaging that discussion, is the line. I realize those were not your sentiments, but I was sort of engaging the broader conversation as well, not just responding personally.

Put a different way, the idea that children who might or even who surely will have some type of disability shouldn't be born - for their own good - strikes me as a slippery slope (for lack of a better word) toward a reduction of rights, respect and accessibility for the disabled. Instead of focusing on a more egalitarian world, the focus becomes an answer back "Your parents shouldn't have brought you into the world if it was going to be so hard." I'm not attributing that sentiment to anyone here, just explaining how I see it as a natural development from some of the thoughts expressed.

It's easy to highlight a number of questions well inside that line (i.e. "Can I afford to have a child?") - which you've done. I don't think anybody is really disputing that. But there are also a lot of difficult questions pertaining to reproduction, disability, disease heritability and so far. Highlighting the easy questions doesn't answer the hard questions.
posted by bunnycup at 10:00 AM on February 10, 2010


But I guess my problem is that Justinian seems to be arguing that people with Down syndrome, or people born with physical deformities, or people born with Autism, would rather they hadn't been born in the first place.

Fuck that. I seem to be arguing that people born with those disabilities would have been better off if they'd been born without those disabilities. Arguing otherwise is disingenuous.

Believe me, I fully understand that society makes it more difficult on the disabled than it has to be. But to believe that being blind or having Down Syndrome or being unable to walk would not be a disability at all if only society would get its act together would require one to bury one's head in the sand.
posted by Justinian at 1:25 PM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


But to believe that being blind or having Down Syndrome or being unable to walk would not be a disability at all if only society would get its act together would require one to bury one's head in the sand.

Yes, and in fact, you only have to think back to a time when society did even less for the disabled to know that the proper argument is not "society is the problem" but "society should do even more to mitigate this problem."
posted by palliser at 2:01 PM on February 10, 2010


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