Roundup: Autism and obesity? Talking ACEs in Olympia, WA; childhood trauma and lower IQ scores; Catholic clergy child sex abuse cases up 15%

You’ve probably heard about the research in Pediatrics showing that children born to obese mothers are at higher risk of autism. “The study of more than 1,000 children found that the offspring of obese mothers had a 67 percent higher risk of autism than the children of normal-weight moms, and more than double the risk of having developmental delays, such as language impairment,” according to an overview on But did you see this important bit of context provided by Bryan Fung on

While the 67 percent figure is “non-trivial,” according to Dr. William Eaton, a professor of mental health at Johns Hopkins University, maternal obesity isn’t exactly considered a leading risk factor. There are others that raise the risk for childhood autism by roughly the same amount, and still others that cause it to skyrocket.

For example, when a baby comes out of the womb feet-first, “a breech birth,” the child’s risk for autism increases about 63 percent. Babies with an Apgar score — an indicator, from one to ten, of a child’s relative health five minutes after birth — of less than seven are about 89 percent more likely to be autistic, Eaton said.

Even higher risk factors include a family history of mood disorders and being born before 35 weeks.

TAKE NOTE OF HOW editorial page writer talks about child abuse prevention and adverse childhood experiences in Olympia, WA, where  “the number of children in Thurston County requiring authorities to intervene to protect them from harm grew 43 percent to 163 cases” from 2010 to 2011, and “there’s no sign of let-up in the numbers in 2012.”

Life’s early lessons and experiences – both good and bad – stay with us for a lifetime. They can help us become self-confident, productive adults or they can send us on a path of self-destruction and anti-social behavior.

Once the cycle of dysfunction in a family is established, it’s hard to break. Statistics bear this out: The number of adults with documented Adverse Childhood Experiences in our county is way above the state average, and the third-highest among all 39 counties, according to the Washington State Family Policy Council. Neighboring Mason County has the highest rate of ACEs.

We must do more in South Sound to break the cycle of abuse.

Washington State is one of 18 U.S. states that have done their own ACE survey, based on the CDC’s Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACE Study), and one of two that have analyzed the data. ACEs in Washington 2009 BRFSS. Communities in Washington know that high ACE scores translate into poor health, more substance abuse, more violence and more victims of violence. More information can be found on The Family Policy Council’s web site.

ADVERSE CHILDHOOD EXPERIENCES RANK high as a predictor of adult onset of chronic disease, according to the ACE Study. Now research shows that it also affects a child’s IQ score, according to an overview on In a study of 206 children over eight years, researchers identified those who had experienced physical, sexual or emotional abuse; neglect, or had seen their mothers being assaulted. The children’s IQs were measured when they were 2, 5 and 8 years old.

More than one in three (37 percent) of the children had suffered abuse or witnessed violence by about age 5. This occurred before age 2 in about 5 percent of children, during preschool (24 to 64 months) in 13 percent of children and during both periods in 19 percent of the children.

Children who suffered abuse or witnessed violence against their mother had lower-than-normal scores on tests of intellectual development. Those who experienced this type of trauma during the first 2 years of life had the lowest scores.

The research was published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

IN ITS ANNUAL REPORT on child sex abuse committed by priests and deacons, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops says its dioceses and religious orders received 594 credible claims of clergy sex abuse last year, compared with 505 in 2011, according to Associated Press reporter Rachel Zoll.

The majority of victims who came forward in 2011 were males who said they had been molested between the ages of 10 and 14. Most of the alleged abuse occurred between the mid-1960s and mid-1980s.

About one-third of the clergy named in 2011 allegations had not been accused before. Most of the accused clerics had already been removed from ministry or had died.

According to, since 1950, 6,115 clerics have been “credibly” accused of sexually abusing minors, and 16,324 people have accused priests of sexually abusing them when they were children.


  1. Thanks for your comment, Richard. Perhaps we’re stuck in a continuity of child abuse that comes from those who have been abused themselves. And then we live our lives in systems that further traumatize, instead of help break the cycle. Incarceration is one of those systems. I don’t know what the answers are; I just know that most of the systems we live with now aren’t working.


  2. Autism connects to Obesity. Obesity connects to Child Abuse. All forms of Child Abuse shorten life spans. Producing Obesity should be treated as Child Abuse. The circle is vicious. We are all paying the price.

    The article (above) is simply another article, among an increasingly large number, that further describes why there is no good reason for any thinking person continuing to ignore childhood trauma and its consequences.

    We are all victims of child abuse and neglect:

    — Abused and neglect children, are the most obvious victims.Their lives can be shortened by the emotional and physical illness they experience in adulthood as a result of childhood trauma.

    — Society pays a karmic price for tolerating child abuse and neglect in any form, (and “having faith” that predatory priests will burn in Hell for abusing children is no excuse for society’s tolerance of it),

    — Beyond this, we all pay the economic and social costs of abuse through incarceration, increased physical and mental health care, and the abuse those who have been abused sometimes give to others later in life.

    This list could go on and on.

    My interest in Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) data, which is now a well-established body of convincing research, and my involvement with a CDC Task Force on Child Maltreatment, began as an academic interest in the degree to which the marketing to children of unhealthy food and beverages WORKS. Let me assure you, such food marketing does work!

    The food marketing industry knows their marketing influences childhood food preferences, and there is reason to believe this marketing also induces appetite for harmful foods and beverages, as well.

    So why are we surprised at the increase in childhood obesity?

    When I first began to examine this connection between food marketing and childhood obesity (and many academics had done so long before I ever thought about it), I made the following observation, which, by the way, drew me to the attention of the state’s child abuse prevention agency:

    “If a conspiracy exists to shorten the life span of a generation of American children, one piece of evidence could be the increase the number of children getting life-shortening, “adult-onset” diabetes. The conspirators who execute upon this strategy could be described as child abusers. If there is fairness under the law, the corporations that are engaged in this form of child abuse should be treated as “persons”, and incarcerated as we should any other child-abuser.”

    Richard T. Cole
    Professor, Department of Advertising, PR, and Retailing
    Michigan State University (


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