Attachment parenting may cause autism; here’s how.


It is perhaps the ultimate irony.

There has never been a randomized controlled trial that shows attachment parenting doesn’t cause autism!

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:

1. Both autism and attachment parenting have increased dramatically in the past two decades. The concept of 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.

26 Responses to “Attachment parenting may cause autism; here’s how.”

  1. Dominykas Grz
    January 27, 2020 at 4:47 am #

    This had me at first half, not gonna lie

  2. Dilespark
    October 23, 2019 at 1:37 am #

    Yeah, judging by most of the responses such as: “I stopped reading at…” they didn’t get it was Satire.


  3. Termuc
    October 22, 2019 at 9:21 pm #

    Utter and total rubbish

  4. MaineJen
    October 22, 2019 at 2:20 pm #

    LOL…waiting for the parachute brigade

    • StephanieJR
      October 22, 2019 at 2:32 pm #

      Is this a good time to mention that I’m now a moderator of a rabbit care subreddit, and can easily encourage my fellows to flood the assholes with Rabbit Facts?

      Though I think it should probably be left as a last resort, as this would probably be a petty and childish move that could descend into chaos.

      But it is pleasing to have an army.

      • The Bofa on the Sofa
        October 22, 2019 at 3:50 pm #

        Who was that one commentor where I just responded with quotes from The Lost Princess of Oz?

        • The Bofa on the Sofa
          October 23, 2019 at 3:16 pm #

          Thinking about it, I think it was Brooke

    • KQ Not Signed In
      October 22, 2019 at 3:36 pm #

      Right? They’ve been absolutely bananas over on the Facebook lately.

  5. Jet Kin
    October 22, 2019 at 11:12 am #

    Correlation does not equal causation:
    Because, you know, pirates!

    • Ruth Mayfly
      October 22, 2019 at 4:52 pm #

      That was kind of the point of this whole post.

  6. rational thinker
    October 22, 2019 at 11:11 am #

    I have often wondered about the effects of baby wearing. Babies get most of their sensory learning done by exploring their environment. If they are always attached to mom how can they learn anything. They are supposed to be grabbing things touching different surfaces and even putting their mouths on things other than a breast. There needs to be studies done to see if those children will be behind due to sensory deprivation from excessive baby wearing.

    • rational thinker
      October 22, 2019 at 11:22 am #

      I did find this bullshit I would love to hear opinions on this:

      • AnnaPDE
        October 22, 2019 at 12:07 pm #

        Wow, they managed to list 23 mostly contrived benefits, and still missed the main proven real-life one: The mother can have the baby along and still have her hands free.

        • October 22, 2019 at 1:45 pm #

          15 of the benefits are marked as being researched in preterm kangaroo care – which is a bit different than having your 2 or 4 month old in a carrier.

          Reason 13’s support comes from a patent filing – which makes me extremely leery of the author’s ability to synthesize material from peer-reviewed papers.

          Of course, I was already leery since the author stated in Reason 11 that otitis media is a leading cause of deafness. (It’s not; OM is a common cause of transient hearing loss in children – but it takes one hell of an ear infection to do permanent damage to the ear leading to deafness. And shitty bad luck to end up with massive damage in both ears.)

          • rational thinker
            October 22, 2019 at 5:23 pm #

            Read the page on breastfeeding inequality. She believes we just need more BFHI hospitals and of course lactation consultants. Also she says we should stop giving infants formula supplementation in the hospital in the first 48 hrs.

          • Sarah
            October 22, 2019 at 8:04 pm #

            It’s hardly surprising that mothers of preterm infants feel more confident in their caregiving when they are given something they can actually do.

          • AnnaPDE
            October 23, 2019 at 7:38 am #

            Ikr. The “benefits” seem mostly made up, transferred to from the actual setting, or speculative, despite the “oh look we have references” look.

        • October 22, 2019 at 1:46 pm #

          They also missed greatly reduced risk of being mauled by domestic or wild animals.

          • rational thinker
            October 23, 2019 at 7:13 am #

            That should be #1 on the list being that they always use women in tribal communities in places like Africa as an example that baby wearing is natural. They do always seem to miss the point of why those women baby wear in the first place, and it’s not for bonding. It’s cause a toddler that wonders 20 feet away from camp has a high chance of becoming lunch but I have never heard them talk about that rather obvious reason.

          • October 25, 2019 at 8:12 pm #

            Closer to home, domesticated pigs are known to eat nearly anything – including human infants.

        • swbarnes2
          October 22, 2019 at 5:18 pm #

          Ah, but the stroller makes it so much easier to walk the 3L boxed wine home from the grocery store.

          • AnnaPDE
            October 23, 2019 at 7:35 am #

            Yeah but where do you put the baby while the stroller is occupied? This is basically the extension of the “hands free for carrying” argument: Stroller free for carrying stuff, too. 🙂

      • Christine O'Hare
        October 22, 2019 at 2:12 pm #

        Yeah, that list is bad. So many list the study info and then make a separate conclusion that said research “may” support some benefit of baby wearing. Talk about stretching.

        Plus a number of the “benefits” listed seem to be more of an individual preference thing. Because my daughter was not soothed by baby wearing – it just made her angrier, except facing outward at the grocery store. And their “less effort” argument seems like bull to me as well, yeah less effort on your arms, but way, way more on your back.

      • StephanieJR
        October 22, 2019 at 2:35 pm #

        I stopped reading in disgust once I reached the bit about depressed mother’s touch making up for their flat voice.

      • Azuran
        October 23, 2019 at 8:57 am #

        Most of these benefits are just basic benefits of the upright position or just….you know….holding and taking care of your baby in general? Also, many of them seems to be repetitions of the same things, but worded differently

        Like, ‘baby cries less’, ‘soothes baby’, ‘baby less fussy’ and ‘touch and motion calm baby’ are basically the same thing: Babies generally respond well to being taken care of, what a surprise!

    • October 23, 2019 at 9:57 am #

      I wonder about the incidence of lower back pain in mothers who continually “wear” their babies.

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