Television and the onset of autism

Research by Cornell University social scientists suggests a link between autism and televsion watching of young children. As reported by Gregg Easterbrook in Slate:

"Cornell University researchers are reporting what appears to be a statistically significant relationship between autism rates and television watching by children under the age of 3. The researchers studied autism incidence in California, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Washington state. They found that as cable television became common in California and Pennsylvania beginning around 1980, childhood autism rose more in the counties that had cable than in the counties that did not. They further found that in all the Western states, the more time toddlers spent in front of the television, the more likely they were to exhibit symptoms of autism disorders. ....

The Cornell study is by Waldman, a professor in the school's Johnson Graduate School of Management, Sean Nicholson, an associate professor in the school's department of policy analysis, and research assistant Nodir Adilov. "Several years ago I began wondering if it was a coincidence that the rise in autism rates and the explosion of television viewing began about the same time," Waldman said. "I asked around and found that medical researchers were not working on this, so accepted that I should research it myself." The Cornell study looks at county-by-county growth in cable television access and autism rates in California and Pennsylvania from 1972 to 1989. The researchers find an overall rise in both cable-TV access and autism, but autism diagnoses rose more rapidly in counties where a high percentage of households received cable than in counties with a low percentage of cable-TV homes. Waldman and Nicholson employ statistical controls to factor out the possibility that the two patterns were simply unrelated events happening simultaneously."

[LW: Perhaps the research should be extended to include computer tube viewing as well. What a amazing set of experiments we have unleashed upon our kids.]