The belief that vaccines cause autism has pervaded popular culture despite robust evidence refuting any connection. In this study, over 15,000 parents of children with autism were surveyed to identify characteristics that predicted whether or not parents believe vaccines caused autism. Overall, 16.5% of parents selected “immunizations” as a cause of their child’s autism diagnosis. Child characteristics that predicted this parent response included having an earlier age of diagnosis, experiencing a plateau or regression in skills, and a higher level of developmental support needed. Additionally, families of low socioeconomic status and ethnic minorities were more likely to believe that vaccines caused their child’s diagnosis. This study demonstrates that more preventative education may be necessary to inform parents about the lack of association between vaccines and autism, and that more work should be done to understand how to reduce the pervasiveness of misinformation about autism.
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