Association between parental nativity and autism spectrum disorder among US-born non-Hispanic white and Hispanic children, 2007 National Survey of Children’s Health

Laura A. Schieve, Ph.D., Sheree L. Boulet, Dr.P.H., Stephen J. Blumberg, Ph.D., Michael D. Kogan, Ph.D., Marshalyn Yeargin-Allsopp, M.D., Coleen A. Boyle, Ph.D., Susanna N. Visser, M.S., Catherine Rice, Ph.D.

Disability and Health Journal
Volume 5, Issue 1, Pages 18–25, January 2012

Published Online: November 04, 2011




Limited studies suggest the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) varies by whether maternal and child birth country are discordant.


We explored associations between ASD and maternal and paternal nativity in a sample of US-born non-Hispanic white (NHW, n = 37,265) and US-born Hispanic (n = 4,690) children in the 2007 National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH).


We assessed ASD prevalence within race-ethnicity and parental nativity subgroups. Prevalence ratios (aPR), comparing each group to NHW children with 2 US-born parents, were adjusted for child age, sex, and receipt of care in a medical home. Estimates were weighted to reflect US noninstitutionalized children. Standard errors were adjusted to account for the complex sample design.


In NHW children with 2 US-born parents, ASD prevalence was 1.19%; estimates were similar for NHW children with a foreign-born mother or father. There was a striking heterogeneity between Hispanic children with 2 US-born versus 2 foreign-born parents (ASD prevalence 2.39% versus 0.31%, p = .05). Even after adjustment, PRs comparing ASD prevalence in Hispanic versus NHW children were vastly different for Hispanic subgroups, suggesting a substantially lower prevalence for Hispanic children with both parents foreign-born (aPR 0.2, 95% confidence interval 0.1-0.5) and a higher prevalence for Hispanic children with both parents US-born (aPR 2.0 [0.8-4.6]).


Previous studies comparing ASD prevalence between NHW and Hispanic children based on a composite Hispanic grouping without consideration of parental nativity likely missed important differences between these racial-ethnic groups. Continuing efforts toward improving early identification in Hispanic children are needed.