The following is an article that appeared in the K.S.
Newsletter (The Even Exchange) in
September of 1992.
CAUTION CONCERNING EARLY STUDIES
Are you aware that the initial
studies on sex chromosomes were done in mental hospitals
and prisons? Researchers could take blood or scrape a few cells quickly and relatively
inexpensively. By using these methods, large numbers of people could be analyzed.
These erroneous studies implied that, when compared to normally chromosomed
individuals, XXY men and XXX women were four to five times more likely to be found in
groups of mentally retarded or psychotic patients. Men with XYY were 10 times more
likely than XY men to be found in criminal populations.
These studies were disturbing
but the implications even back then remained unclear. The
basic problem was that the Sex Chromosome Abnormality (SCA) group chosen (criminals,
mentally retarded, psychotic, etc.) represented fewer than 1% of all people with SCA's!
Put another way, only the most abnormal cross section of this population - the
institutionalized SCA men and women were represented. As is true of many initial
studies, this fact was not brought out when the studies were published. This lead many to
believe that most XYY men were predisposed to criminal behavior and most XXY men
and XXX women were headed toward some form of psychosis. It is a sad fact that some
parents with an SCA fetus continue to be told that their child's prospects are limited
and grim based on these studies. It is more likely that many children with SCA's will lead
normal, productive lives if they are reared by sensitive, realistic parents in a supportive
We now have better studies based
on groups of geneticists, psychiatrists, and
psychologists joining forces to present a picture of relatively normal development for
SCA children. Only Turner Syndrome girls (XO) had noticeable physical abnormalities.
Children with XXX, XXY and XYY sex chromosome abnormalities were and are seldom
distinguishable from their chromosomally normal brothers and sisters. While some SCA
children (noticeably XXX girls) began walking and talking a bit late, slightly reduced IQ's
were found in all SCA groups. It is important to not that few of the SCA children were
mentally retarded but it seemed that more than half of them did need a little extra help in
school. As adolescents, some seemed to have more than the normal; amount of
trouble with self esteem and social relationships.
These newer studies identified
several items. While SCA's may be associated with some
developmental and learning problems, SCA children DO NOT have the originally
predicted serious behavioral problems. These children are varied-like all
humans-some do have severe learning disabilities, but others do not and perform well in
school and go on to college. An additional item brought out in these later studies was
that the quality of the child's environment is an important factor in development.
SCA kids from stress filled families have more problems than their siblings while
children from more stable families tend to have developmental skills
similar to their chromosomally normal brothers and sisters.
Currently, no one program of
intervention has been designed for SCA children exclusively;
although we here at K.S. and Associates would like to help researchers to develop one.
We now know that early intervention can decrease the severity of developmental
problems and help out children to learn to adapt. Unquestionably, children born with
SCA's like Klinefelter Syndrome or XYY enter the world with a biological disadvantage,
but biology is not destiny! It is more likely that many children with SCA's
will lead normal, productive lives if they are reared by sensitive, realistic parents
in a supportive environment, which is just the prescription for ALL children
entering the world today!