Has anyone heard the term 'Refridgerator Mother' before?

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Hart
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14 Jan 2014, 9:24 am

Hi all :D

Today I spoke with a professional about my suspicions about having Aspergers. The doctor was nice, but informed me that they were not specialists in the field of autism. They attempted to discuss the issue with me, and advised me that they felt that I don't have Aspergers, and that instead my shyness as a child, and obsessiveness, was attributed to neglectful parents.

Of course, I wasn't convinced, as there are too many additional factors to consider besides simply the shyness, and obsessive behaviour; he advised me to speak with an autism specialist, as they would be better equipped to proper diagnose me, which I plan to follow up on.

In saying that, I was curious to look in to his theory, if only to rule it out. I then came across a term known as 'Refridgerator Mothers'. From what I understand, it seems to be an out dated term for a previously thought cause for autism, where parents (mainly mothers, as this was a popular belief in the 50s apparently), were neglectful in raising their children.

As I did practically 'raise myself' as a child, I wondered whether anyone else here can relate, and what everyone's thoughts are on this.


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paolo
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14 Jan 2014, 10:11 am

Normally a general pratictioner doesn't know a thing about Asperger. Same for even a minimally literate person.



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14 Jan 2014, 10:14 am

Yes, I've heard of the "refrigerator mother" theory of autism before and it's nonsense. It's been discredited decades ago and and parenting has nothing to do with whether or not the child has autism. Most autism experts think that there is a strong genetic basis for ASD's.



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14 Jan 2014, 10:30 am

Hart wrote:
Hi all :D

Today I spoke with a professional about my suspicions about having Aspergers. The doctor was nice, but informed me that they were not specialists in the field of autism. They attempted to discuss the issue with me, and advised me that they felt that I don't have Aspergers, and that instead my shyness as a child, and obsessiveness, was attributed to neglectful parents.

Of course, I wasn't convinced, as there are too many additional factors to consider besides simply the shyness, and obsessive behaviour; he advised me to speak with an autism specialist, as they would be better equipped to proper diagnose me, which I plan to follow up on.

In saying that, I was curious to look in to his theory, if only to rule it out. I then came across a term known as 'Refridgerator Mothers'. From what I understand, it seems to be an out dated term for a previously thought cause for autism, where parents (mainly mothers, as this was a popular belief in the 50s apparently), were neglectful in raising their children.

As I did practically 'raise myself' as a child, I wondered whether anyone else here can relate, and what everyone's thoughts are on this.


Firstly, they aren't a specialist in the field. Ignore what they said about you not having autism.
I've had multiple people over the years both professional psychiatrists whom didn't specialize in the area and regular average people insisting I don't have Aspergers. I started getting assessed recently and my assessor whom is a specialist in the field said within the first 30 minutes of the assessment that I most likely have Aspergers.

The refrigerator mother theory went out the window with wandering uterus syndrome (i.e Hysteria) It is a ridiculous and stupid theory.

What might make more sense is if he mentioned an Attachment disorder. Even then, ASD and Attachment disorders are very different. See a specialist.



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14 Jan 2014, 10:36 am

Where I come from a GP's job on encountering someone like you is to refer to a specialist. Equally, this is typically the first point of contact when attempting to obtain a diagnosis.

Jono is correct when he states that the refrigerator mother hypothesis has been discredited. That said, there may have been some cause-effect confusion. As he also correctly points out, the causes of ASDs are almost certainly primarily genetic. There is some research to suggest that some individuals with subclinical indications of ASDs may be mating selectively (with other systemisers), and having offspring with ASDs (see http://www.edge.org/conversation/the-as ... ing-theory for example). In such cases you may have detached parenting as a result of some of the characteristics of ASDs, leading to a false conclusion that this was the cause of an ASD in the offspring.

Note that B-C's theory is prelimary, and my conclusions derived from it are highly speculative. It adds up, but it's open to refutation.



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14 Jan 2014, 11:20 am

I have heard the term but I think it's more likely your gp thinks it could be something other than an asd stemming from neglect. I know someone who has recently adopted a child who was severely neglected and they won't assess the child for asd until they have been in a stable environment for some time so they can see if the symptoms are solely as a result of the neglect or whether he may have asd.



Hart
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14 Jan 2014, 11:27 am

Thanks for your replies everyone; they were what I expected would be said.

Just to clear things up, he was a psychologist, not a GP. While I did obtain a referral from a GP, I have to admit I wasn't really to happy about the GP I got; he didn't seem too helpful.

The psychologist simply stated that while he does know about AS and autism, it was not his specialty; he mostly specialised more in relationship issues, and depression, that sort of thing. As it was my first visit, it was merely a practise run I suppose. Now that I know better, I can look for a psychologist who knows this stuff.


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14 Jan 2014, 11:45 am

I have heard it. It was something from the 1950's and 60's where experts thought autism was caused by bad parenting. That is my guess why some parents avoided taking their kids in to get checked out fearing it would be blamed on them or why doctors would avoid the label. Could that be the reason for the less diagnoses then? Autism was so bad then and now it's not bad because we all know now parenting has nothing to do with it. I can't even remember where I heard that parents would be afraid of the autism label back in those days so other experts avoided it and parents fearing getting their kid checked out. I think it was someone's opinion they posted.

My dad's cousin seems to think AS is caused by how the kid is raised because she told me I would have been so much better if I had better parents. I don't know what she means like if I would have had no learning issues or no anxiety or no AS traits.


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Hart
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14 Jan 2014, 12:19 pm

League_Girl wrote:
My dad's cousin seems to think AS is caused by how the kid is raised because she told me I would have been so much better if I had better parents. I don't know what she means like if I would have had no learning issues or no anxiety or no AS traits.


Hmm, I've often wondered what my life would be like now, if my parents were more involved in my life as a child. My father travelled overseas for months at a time, for his career, so I barely saw him, and my mother was young when she had me; she wasn't ready for the responsibility I think. That, and I also suspect she has NPD. I was often left to my own devices.

I didn't even realise how bad I had it, until I started talking to a friend about it one day. He was complaining that his parents were always getting involved in his life, and not letting him live it. I told him he was lucky for having parents who care so much, even if it was cramping his style.

I told him about my childhood, how I would go up to my mother with my homework, and she would just shrug her shoulders. I would always be the last kid at school to be picked up, because my mother didn't care if I had to wait around an hour or so. I even taught myself how to ride my own bike, and spent hours riding the streets alone; never being told off for coming home after dark, or for riding alone.


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14 Jan 2014, 12:30 pm

I grew up in the 50's and I heard my mother tell my father she didn't want to take me to a psychiatrist because she was afraid they would think she was a bad mother.
Then she told me I was sick in the head, something wrong with my personality, she even called me schizophrenic.
Years ago I was in a bookstore and saw a book about how the refrigerator mother theory of autism has been debunked. My first thought was 'that lets my mother off the hook'.



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14 Jan 2014, 12:32 pm

How it was put to me that I think makes sense is that how one is treated growing up impacts how one feels about oneself and copes with life. Therefore all other things being equal, it is easier to be raised by loving nurturing parents even if one has ASD then to be raised by cold detached or cruel parents. Refrigerator mother is outdated and meaningless in this context, but that point is difficult to argue. So yes, even if one has ASD, it's hard not being loved as a child.



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14 Jan 2014, 12:52 pm

My parents were involved in my life and my mom always checked up on us and always knew what we were up to and where we were and would get scolded if we took off without telling her first. She always wanted to know where we were but I knew kids in my neighborhood who were left unsupervised and were allowed to do whatever they want and those kids were snots and bullies and jerks because their parents didn't care and couldn't be bothered to check up on them and whenever my mom would tell the parents what their kid did, they didn't care. Their excuse was "They're just children, not a big deal, they don't know what they are doing." Either they were that stupid or they just couldn't be bothered to do their job as a parent because they wanted to be their friend than a parent and not upset them. We even had these neighbors who would always call the police on their kids whenever they did something wrong so the cops would come over and talk to them because the parents didn't want to be the bad guys so they had the police do it for them. My mom couldn't believe the police would buy into that BS and go over there and do it wasting their time. We even had these neighbors that moved out of their home because they got sick of seeing police cars across the street from their home and other mean kids and their son getting influenced by them and the parents got the same BS from other parents. "They're just kids, he just needs to toughen up." And I thought I had a strange mother but I realized in my teens I had a good mother and those were just bad parents. My mom said they were lazy but I am not sure, she has also said they were stupid so that contradicts the other and she probably doesn't know either.

And I do think it is more difficult to diagnose a ASD in someone if they have a history of abuse and neglect. Experts then have to figure out what behaviors were environmental or if it's autism. I am not sure how they know but that is what specialists are for.

There is such thing as helicopter parenting and that is when the parent gets too involved and they don't let their kids fail or make any mistakes and always do things for them and that is also bad for the child. I don't know if that is what the person dealt with when he was complaining about his parents or if he is one of those people who doesn't like discipline and rules and being told no. Lot of kids don't like being told no but as we all get older, we finally appreciate what our parents did and why they did things they did. But some never figure that out unfortunately.


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14 Jan 2014, 1:31 pm

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Last edited by qawer on 14 Jan 2014, 1:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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14 Jan 2014, 1:35 pm

Hart wrote:
Hi all :D

Today I spoke with a professional about my suspicions about having Aspergers. The doctor was nice, but informed me that they were not specialists in the field of autism. They attempted to discuss the issue with me, and advised me that they felt that I don't have Aspergers, and that instead my shyness as a child, and obsessiveness, was attributed to neglectful parents.

Of course, I wasn't convinced, as there are too many additional factors to consider besides simply the shyness, and obsessive behaviour; he advised me to speak with an autism specialist, as they would be better equipped to proper diagnose me, which I plan to follow up on.

In saying that, I was curious to look in to his theory, if only to rule it out. I then came across a term known as 'Refridgerator Mothers'. From what I understand, it seems to be an out dated term for a previously thought cause for autism, where parents (mainly mothers, as this was a popular belief in the 50s apparently), were neglectful in raising their children.

As I did practically 'raise myself' as a child, I wondered whether anyone else here can relate, and what everyone's thoughts are on this.


Aspergers Syndrome is stricly a condition due to genetics.

You cannot develop Aspergers Syndrome after birth.



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14 Jan 2014, 2:14 pm

Autism, as we know, has been proven to be due to abnormal neurology, starting in the womb.

Just remember, tho'-

As one or two people have proven above, there ARE 'Fridge Moms', and while they don't cause autism, they certainly can ROYALLY mess up their kids.


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14 Jan 2014, 2:51 pm

Damage is absolutely done by neglectful parents, however, it most certainly does not cause autism. Child neglect often results in avoidant attachment disorder, wherein a person is incapable of trusting anyone else because he feels he will only be let down, hurt or abused because that's how his parents taught him people were in his formative years of life. Neglected children also have a higher propensity for developing antisocial behavioural tendencies because their sense of empathy was not properly exercised with their parents' help, so they reach the conclusion that it's okay to hurt people because that's just what people do. Neglected children do develop neurological problems, however autism isn't one of them.


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