Scientists discover that attachment parenting causes autism


It is perhaps the ultimate irony.

Advocates of attachment parenting many of whom reject vaccination because of fear of autism have failed to recognize that it is attachment parenting itself that causes autism.

Consider the ever growing body of evidence:

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]There has never been a randomized controlled trial of attachment parenting that shows it doesn’t cause autism![/pullquote]

1. Both autism and attachment parenting have increased dramatically in the past two decades. The origin of the attachment parenting is credited to Dr. William Sears, who first mentioned it in his book in 1988. Studies show that in the VERY SAME YEAR, the incidence of autism began to rise dramatically. (Environ. Sci. Technol., 2010, 44 (6), pp 2112–2118).


2. Regardless of who practices attachment parenting or how they define it, no one can deny that the practice of attachment parenting ALWAYS precedes the diagnosis. There are no known cases in which attachment parenting practices began after autism was diagnosed.

3. The purported mechanism is thought to be the sensory deprivation caused by baby wearing and extended breastfeeding. During the critical early months and years, when babies should be learning about the world and making millions of neuronal connections, babies exposed to AP are deprived of contact with the outside world (many are constantly carried in a position where they can see nothing but the surface of the mother’s clothing) and their exposure to other individuals such as fathers, grandparents and childcare workers is severely limited.

4. No one has EVER shown that attachment parenting does not cause autism.

5. Even those who strongly reject the notion that attachment parenting causes autism acknowledge that there are MANY children raised with attachment parenting who are subsequently diagnosed with autism.

6. Many of those who deny a link between attachment parenting and autism stand to lose money if attachment parenting is shown to be harmful. Authors, lactation consultants, and sling manufacturers, among others, have a strong economic motivation for discouraging investigation of this link.

It is time to launch a comprehensive investigation of the harmful side effects of attachment parenting in general, and the relationship between attachment parenting and autism in particular. It’s hardly coincidental that the same people who make money from attachment parenting have NEVER bothered to study these harmful effects. They insist that attachment parenting is beneficial, but there is no way they can know for sure.


Those who have read this far have probably figured out that this is a satire. I’m satirizing the “thinking” of anti-vaccine parents on the purported relationship between vaccines and autism. The purpose of the satire is to demonstrate that what seems to anti-vaxxers to be irrefutable “reasoning” is nothing more than nonsense and logical fallacies.

The above list highlights the major rhetorical gambits of anti-vaxxers. Number 1 is the claim that because both vaccination and autism have risen in recent decades, vaccines must cause autism. That claim is foolish as can be seen when the same observation is made about attachment parenting and autism. Just because the incidence of two phenomena rise at the same time does not mean that one caused the other. And that doesn’t even take into account the fact that rates of vaccination have actually been FALLING while rates of autism have been rising.

Number 2 is the temporal connection. Early childhood vaccination precedes the observation of autistic symptoms, but a lot of things precede the observation of autistic symptoms. That’s because those symptoms typically do not appear until the early toddler years and anything that takes place during infancy (like attachment parenting practices) will precede the observation of symptoms.

Number 3 invokes a spurious mechanism of action. It is certainly plausible, but no evidence is presented that it actually occurs. Anti-vaxxers play the same tricks with claims about the deleterious effects of “toxins” in vaccines.

Number 4 is the “argument from ignorance.” The argument from ignorance dares the opponent to prove a negative and when a negative cannot be proven (since that is a logical impossibility in most cases), the conclusion is proclaimed that this “shows” that vaccines cause autism.

Number 5 is the “fallacy of the lonely fact.” Since some children have developed autism after their parents practiced attachment parenting, the conclusion is drawn that large numbers of children will develop autism after their parents practice attachment parenting.

Number 6 is the conspiracy theory that undergirds almost every attempt to defend anti-vax. But when the same “reasoning” is applied to attachment parenting, it is easy to see that the conspiracy theory does not have much explanatory power. There is ALWAYS someone who stands to benefit from any recommendation or practice. That does not mean that those who benefit are actively hiding information on harms and risks from everyone else.

The concluding paragraph is the seemingly innocuous call for “more research.” But we cannot and should not waste time “researching” connections that have no basis in science. If we did, we could spend a lot of time “researching” whether the moon is made of green cheese or whether clouds are made of marshmallows. The call for “more research” is just away to add gravitas to what are often ridiculous claims. We do not need to “research” every wacky idea that anti-vaxxers devise and our refusal to “research” those ideas without basis in science or logic is not a sign that someone is hiding something.

The key point is that what passes for “reasoning” among anti-vaxxers is not reasoning at all. It is nothing more than wild accusations, logical fallacies and conspiracy theories. There is no more reason to take seriously the idea that vaccines cause autism than there is to take seriously the idea that attachment parenting causes autism.

41 Responses to “Scientists discover that attachment parenting causes autism”

  1. January 3, 2017 at 10:14 pm #

    I am deeply offended by this analogy. Shame on you.

    • Amy Tuteur, MD
      January 3, 2017 at 11:21 pm #

      It’s not supposed to be funny. By the way, I also have a child on the spectrum.

      • January 3, 2017 at 11:26 pm #

        I just wish you had used something more neutral in your analogy. It’s too similar to the refrigerator mother assumption. That is a piece of history we don’t need to remember.

        And how can you say it is satire but it is not meant to be funny?

        the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.

        • Amy Tuteur, MD
          January 3, 2017 at 11:32 pm #

          It’s supposed to alert people that correlation is not causation.

          • January 4, 2017 at 12:18 am #

            It is offensive and hurtful. When I make this argument, I use number of television channels correlated to autism rate. It’s neutral.

          • Who?
            January 4, 2017 at 1:25 am #

            There’s also some graphs about increased numbers of SUVs on the road, and-my favourite-increased consumption of food claiming to be organic, as triggers running in parallel to the uptick of diagnoses of autism.

            The tiny buttons on my phone preclude me from finding them, but they are out there.

  2. 655321
    November 7, 2016 at 11:20 am #

    Making jokes about the neurological destruction of our children. Nice. And professional.

    • sabelmouse
      November 8, 2016 at 11:38 am #

      pretty much pro vax mo. i’ve met few people more disposable.

  3. Reality022
    August 24, 2016 at 10:10 pm #

    Dr. Tuteur said, “There is no more reason to take seriously the idea that vaccines cause autism than there is to take seriously the idea that attachment parenting causes autism.”

    But… but… but…
    Attachment parenting does cause autism.
    I know it’s true.
    I read it on the internets.

    In my best Charlie Heston voice:
    Damn you, Drs. Sears!!!
    Damn you all to hell!!!111!!!!!!

  4. shay simmons
    August 24, 2016 at 5:19 pm #


  5. rachelmarie Acosta
    August 24, 2016 at 2:49 pm #

    I feel like AP may cause divorce which isn’t great for kids either
    It just put a lot of strain on my marriage and friendships.
    Lot of things canceled the benefits out.
    Consleeping kept me and baby wakeful and the next day my toddler would have a very unhappy mother. Just an example. We are not doing AP anymore but I wanted to comment how it affects the marriage.

  6. Inmara
    August 23, 2016 at 4:31 pm #

    OT – My totally non-AP and vaccinated baby has turned 1 year old recently, and we’re doing great. I’m gradually increasing my workload (not back to office yet but working on some projects 3-4 days a week) and we hired a nanny. First week was rough, LO was crying every morning and I bolted out of door to not see it (and he calmed down in a few minutes). Now it seems that he understands – mom and dad won’t disappear forever, and nanny is great, so it’s not a big deal anymore. I have to admit that I’m happy to have something to do outside of parenting and housekeeping; LO is bright and cool baby but being with him 24/7 was getting on my nerves a bit.
    During first year LO got a whopping 3 colds and one mild diarrheal illness (I blame apples which he picked and chewed on in the garden); last week we had a scary episode with high temperature and vomiting but it was over in one evening. Fingers crossed that his health keeps this great! We’ll get enough bugs once he starts kindergarten at 2.

    • Reality022
      August 24, 2016 at 10:15 pm #

      If it is anything like my experience, once he gets his 12 month vaccinations his walking/toddling expertise will rapidly increase and his vocabulary will dramatically expand…
      Those vaccines are amazing!!!11!!!!!!

  7. AA
    August 23, 2016 at 2:04 pm #

    OT: This was from 2006 and ultimately this proposal did not pass: “The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) said charging women
    for the procedure, which costs 500 in a private maternity hospital,
    could stem the growing number of women demanding an epidural for pain
    relief and encourage natural births.”

    So the geniuses who came up with this proposal definitely think that regional nerve blocks should all cost the patient money out of pocket, right? And they’re practicing what they preach? No nerve blocks for joint replacements, right? Just pay a few hundred to have a joint doula and you’ll be right as rain.

    • Roadstergal
      August 23, 2016 at 2:07 pm #

      Of course they won’t charge for nerve blocks! Men get those!

      Fucking misogynistic asswipes.

    • Sarah
      August 23, 2016 at 2:07 pm #


    • Inmara
      August 23, 2016 at 4:23 pm #

      /shrug/ We’re not even mad about paying for epidurals out of pocket, it’s good if you have access to an epidural at all (small hospitals don’t have enough anesthesiologists, they’re on site for C-sections and other surgeries only). I guess since our maternity care has significantly improved compared to Soviet era, availability of epidurals aren’t seen as an issue by many (we’re happy that doctors and nurses don’t yell at us and we can keep our own underwear when checking in).

  8. Cyndi
    August 23, 2016 at 10:48 am #

    Dr Amy wins the internet for the day (maybe the week). PLEASE, someone who hasn’t been banned, go out and put this on MAM’s page.

  9. Melissa Wickersham
    August 23, 2016 at 2:51 am #

    One only wishes that the Moon was made of green cheese. Then we would have heroic people like Wallace and Gromit who would harvest the Moon to bring the delicious green cheese home to Earth…so we can all savor the delightful taste of Green Lunar Cheese!

  10. Irène Delse
    August 23, 2016 at 1:22 am #


  11. guest
    August 22, 2016 at 10:58 pm #

    Ha! If this were true, I would be reveling in the irony.

  12. Brooke
    August 22, 2016 at 8:38 pm #

    I get this is satire but conflating attachment parenting with the anti-vaccine movement is ridiculous. If that was the case we’d have vaccines refusal rates closer 50% than 1.5%

    • momofone
      August 22, 2016 at 8:56 pm #

      It makes about as much sense as the vaccines-cause-autism argument.

    • Nick Sanders
      August 22, 2016 at 9:08 pm #

      I’m seriously beginning to suspect you need a remedial reading class.

      • kfunk937
        August 22, 2016 at 9:41 pm #

        I couldn’t believe she cited anything sciencedaily . . . but my jaw really dropped when I saw that the original source was Medical Hypotheses.

        Now that’s satire.

        • August 23, 2016 at 11:13 am #

          IMHO, Brooke’s comments make more sense if you read them AS a form of satire against NCB commentators…..

          Alas, I think this hypothesis of mine is a method of reducing my feelings of mass confusion every time she responds.

          • Roadstergal
            August 23, 2016 at 11:59 am #

            Publish your hypothesis in Medical Hypotheses! It will be the highest-quality submission in its history.

        • Roadstergal
          August 23, 2016 at 11:26 am #

          If I found out that Medical Hypotheses was owned by The Onion, I would be not one bit surprised.

          • kfunk937
            August 23, 2016 at 11:46 am #

            Heh. Neither would I.

            My favourite term (that I immediately stole adopted) for this sort of pay-for-play, psuedoscience organ is “journal shaped puke funnel.” Its credibility deficit is surpassed only by, say, the crypto-biologist who bought her own journal to publish her “BigFoot DNA study.”

            Can’t make this stuff up.

          • Roadstergal
            August 23, 2016 at 11:58 am #

            In bicycling circles, those crappy bikes that you buy at Wal-Mart that break if you look at them too hard are called “BSOs” – Bike-Shaped Objects. Medical Hypotheses and the like are Journal-Shaped Objects.

          • Allie
            August 23, 2016 at 11:57 pm #

            I think that’s kind of ballsy : )
            And at least publishing BS studies about Big Foot DNA doesn’t hurt babies.

      • demodocus
        August 23, 2016 at 7:09 am #

        Isn’t she the one who insisted her high school taught her how to read scientific studies?

    • guest
      August 22, 2016 at 11:00 pm #

      You think 50% of all parents are attachment parents? Get outside of your own little bubble, Brooke. There is a vast world of classes, cultures, and individuals out there, and nowhere near 50% of them are attachment parenting zealots. (And no, you don’t get to count every parent who owns an Ergo as an attachment parent.)

    • BeatriceC
      August 22, 2016 at 11:43 pm #

      Um, do you understand the meaning of the word “satire”?

      • Sarah
        August 23, 2016 at 2:42 am #

        I’m more interested in whether she understands the meaning of the word ‘Probit’.

      • Amy
        August 23, 2016 at 9:47 am #

        Apparently not.

    • MI Dawn
      August 23, 2016 at 7:35 am #

      Brooke: Medical Hypothesis? An online survey? Seriously??? My dear, just because something is published doesn’t mean it’s a good study. You need to look at the impact factor of the journal. Neither MH or Int Breastfeeding are high impact journals.

      Second, both of those articles are 10 or more years old. If there had been anything really useful, there would have been follow-up studies that proved or disproved the hypothesis.

    • August 23, 2016 at 11:19 am #

      1) Please attach a scientific study supporting your claim that 50% of parents use attachment parenting.

      2) Re-read the blog post slowly, please. The first half attaches attachment parenting to autism. The second half describes how anti-vaxx believers attach vaccines to autism. At no point did anyone attach attachment parenting to anti-vaxx beliefs.

      3) Satire is a method of showing the logical flaws in an argument BY applying the same logical assumptions to a similar case where the outcome is ridiculous. In other words: Connecting AP to rising rates of autism is clearly absurd – and that’s the point of what Dr. Amy was doing to show how connecting vaccinations to autism is equally absurd.

    • Sean Jungian
      August 23, 2016 at 11:23 am #

      Wait, so you can apparently identify satire, but still can’t understand it? Oh, Brookey.

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