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Interdigital 2D:4D ratio has been considered as an indicator of prenatal exposure to androgens, entailing then a smaller ratio more androgenisation. Although it has been related to systemizing and empathy dimensions in the general population, it has never been studied in parents of people with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs).
Objectives and aims
To analyse the relationship between the 2D:4D ratio and these psychological variables in this population.
The sample was composed by parents of both genders of people with (n = 46) or without (n = 42) ASDs. The ratio was calculated as the mean of 3 measurements of each hand evaluated by 3 different researchers. Psychological dimensions were evaluated by means of the Systemizing and Empathy Quotients (SQ and EQ, respectively).
Parents of ASDs persons showed lower scores in the EQ than controls, being these differences replicated only in men. No differences between groups for the 2D:4D ratio were found. Nevertheless, regression analyses indicated that in parents of ASDs a higher 2D:4D left ratio predicted a higher EQ. This result was also observed in men but not in women. In any case, the model was not significant in the control group.
Parents of ASDs persons showed lower EQ than controls, being this quotient predicted by the left 2D:4D ratio only in the former. When analysing in each gender, these results are only obtained in men. Among other parameters, the D2:D4 ratio (especially the left hand one) could be considered a valid indicator of the ASDs parent's idiosyncrasy.
Caregiving of offspring with a chronic illness is a highly stressful vital experience. Previous studies with parents of schizophrenic persons revealed that these situations increase health complaints (González-Bono et al., 2009), with the duration of caring being a relevant variable (Contell-Montaña et al., 2010). The higher age of the caregivers of schizophrenia can contribute to this health unbalance, but little is known in younger samples.
To test whether middle-aged caregivers (parents of autistic persons) present higher health disturbances than controls and to investigate the moderating role of duration of caring
Health complaints and resting levels of immunoglobulin A (IgA) were measured in a sample of 38 middle-aged caregivers of autistic offspring (24 mothers/14 fathers) and 35 parents of healthy persons (17 women/18 men) of similar characteristics.
Caregivers report more immunological, muscular, genital-urinary and general health complaints than controls. Additionally, the scores of all scales and total score of Goldberg Health Questionnaire were higher in caregivers than in non caregivers. No significant differences were found in IgA levels. Among caregivers, fewer years of caring were associated with more anxiety and lower IgA levels.
Chronic stress of caregiving of autistic offspring is associated with more health complaints. The number of years after unequivocal diagnosis of autism has a moderating effect on immunological disturbances and anxiety in care givers. Further research is needed to clarify whether the interventions focused on anxiety can influence the low antibodies levels and decrease future health complaints.
Analysing reactivity to laboratory stressor in lab is a valid model for understanding how people act in real-life situations. Electrodermal activity is a good index of emotionality, which has not been analysed in caregivers of persons with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs).
Objectives and aims
This work aims to compare the response of electrodermal activity to mental stress between caregivers of ASDs people and controls, as the former could show a different response due to their particular situation characterised by a state of continuous alert.
Parents of both genders of people with (n = 44) or without (n = 42) ASDs carried out a set of different mental tasks. Skin Conductance Level (SCL) was continuously registered before, during, and after the tasks. Skin Conductance Responses (SCR) were obtained from SCL levels using Acqknowledge software.
For SCL, a significant effect of “gender” and of “period x group” and “period x group x gender” interactions was observed. SCL was higher in men than in women and in controls when compared to caregivers. Controls presented more SCL Reactivity than caregivers, being these results were replicated in men (who also showed worse recovery in controls) but not in women. In caregivers, men showed lower SCR Reactivity than women.
Caregivers of ASDs showed a lower electrodermal reactivity to mental stress than controls, and this effect was stronger in men. These results could reflect a lower reactivity to stressful situations in caregivers and, consequently, a loss of the adaptative potential of the stress response in this population.
Caregivers of relatives with chronic diseases has shown lower rest levels of immunoglobulin A than non-caregivers (Gallagher et al., 2008). In response to mental stress, IgA levels used to be increased in healthy population (Okamura et al. 2010). Scarce studies have been focused on immunological effects of caregiving in response to stress, and the results are controversial. To our knowledge, there are no studies stressing this field in chronically stressed populations such as caregivers of autistic offspring.
Objectives and aims
Evaluate whether caregivers present different psychosocial and immunological responses to acute stress than non-caregivers, as well as what is the role of gender in these responses.
38 caregivers of persons with autism and 35 non-caregivers were exposed to a psychosocial laboratory stress. IgA levels were measured before, during and after a set of several mental tasks, while the state of mood was evaluated before and after the stressors.
Caregivers showed blunted IgA response to stress in men and women compared with non-caregivers, although the response pattern was different for each gender. Moreover, caregivers presented worse mood (depression, anger, fatigue, vigor and total score) than non-caregivers. Moreover, psychological effects of stress are inversely associated with levels of IgA, fundamentally during the task.
Caregiving reduces IgA secretion in response to psychosocial stress, although differently in men and women. Further studies are necessary to explore other neuroendocrine factors, together with mood, that could be involved in this buffered response.
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