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Dev Med Child Neurol. 2016 Nov;58(11):1124-1131. doi: 10.1111/dmcn.13161. Epub 2016 Jun 2.

Disparities in adversity among children with autism spectrum disorder: a population-based study.

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Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA, USA.
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA, USA.
School of Social Work, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA.
Department of Disability & Human Development, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA.
University of Chicago Medicine, Chicago, IL, USA.
University of Chicago Comer Children's Hospital and Kennedy Research Center on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, Chicago, IL, USA.



People with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) experience disparities in health. An important but overlooked risk factor for health disparities in the ASD population is adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). The purpose of this study was to identify the prevalence of ACEs among families of children with and without ASD, using a population-based sample.


Data from the 2011 to 2012 National Survey of Child Health were analyzed to estimate prevalence of ACEs among families of children with and without ASD, age 3 to 17 years (ASD=1611; estimated population=1 165 34). The child's ASD status was obtained from parent report; ACEs were assessed with the modified Adverse Childhood Experiences Scale. Bivariate and multinomial logistic regression analyses were utilized to investigate the relationship between ACEs and childhood ASD status.


ASD status among children was significantly and independently associated with higher probability of reporting one to three ACEs (adjusted relative risk ratio [aRRR] 1.53; 95% CI: 1.16-2.0; p<0.010) and four or more ACEs (aRRR 1.99; 95% CI: 1.35-2.91; p<0.010).


Children with ASD may experience a greater number of family and neighborhood adversities, potentially compromising their chances for optimal physical and behavioral health outcomes. Assessment and reduction of ACEs among families of young people with ASD could potentially contribute to the reduction of population health disparities.

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