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Scientific study is not very scientific - dorsetgirl
August 24th, 2012
08:29 am
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Scientific study is not very scientific
Scientists claim to have discovered (again - I'm sure I've read this before, several years ago) that older men are more likely to father autistic children than are younger men. This is of interest to me as I have an ASD son whose father qualifies as "older". Then I read the article and discover that the findings are based on "seventy-eight Icelandic families".

I have no idea of the average size of an Icelandic family, but let's assume for a moment that it's three children. So we're talking here about 234 children in all. Average incidence of (diagnosed) autism is currently thought to be somewhere between 1 in 60 and 1 in 100. So we might expect to find a total of two to four noticeably autistic children within the seventy-eight families. My university stats courses are a long way behind me and I was never very good at it anyway, but I'd be interested to see the confidence levels on there even being two to four ASD kids in such a small sample, never mind the age of their fathers.

The newspaper article, predictably enough, quoted some supposed expert saying "Nature designed us to produce children while we are young". Well yes, but nature also designed us to carry on producing children until we are fifty years old (females) or too old to get it up (males). This means that throughout history, men of fifty or sixty have been fathering their tenth or twelfth child on women approaching fifty.

Here's an idea for a study: today's eighty- and ninety-year-olds are the last (in this country at least) product of an age where (according to my family history research) women generally had an average of ten children over a period of 22 years or so. It follows that - very roughly - ten percent of today's elderly will be the youngest sibling, born to a man of maybe 45 - 50. So compare the rates of autism amongst them with the rate amongst those who were the oldest in their family, born to men of around 23 - 28. Simple. Yes, I know there's a lot of fine detail to be ironed out there, plus I have no idea how many autistic people would have died of neglect in asylums in the 1920s, but seriously - seventy-eight families? That's simply ridiculous.





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From:dickgloucester
Date:August 24th, 2012 09:14 am (UTC)
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*nods* I am constantly reminded of what Ben Goldacre says about the way 'science' is reported in the press.
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From:dorsetgirl
Date:August 24th, 2012 09:30 am (UTC)
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Ah, I'd forgotten about him! I must look him up again. I remember following his thing against "Doctor" Gillian McKeith with great amusement, as I'd just seen a programme in which she went apeshit at some guy for "personally betraying" her - just because he'd had a glass of wine for someone's birthday or something, when the diet sheet said no alcohol.
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