Causes of Autism: Environmental Versus Genetic Factors

A recent study shows the causes of autism to be more environmentally influenced than previously thought.

“This is a very significant study because it confirms that genetic factors are involved in the cause of the disorder,” said Dr. Peter Szatmari, a leading autism researcher who is the head of child psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience at McMaster University in Ontario. “But it shifts the focus to the possibility that environmental factors could also be really important.”

Little is known about the causes of autism and as recently as a few decades ago, psychiatrists thought autism was caused by a lack of maternal warmth. While it is currently thought that there are genetic explanations, there has been growing acceptance that genes do not paint the whole picture, partially because incidences of autism appear to be increasing faster than our genes can evolve.

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