What We Do Not Know About Circumcision

ADHD, Autism, Male Infant Mortality Links Unexplored


business man with his head buried in the sand

With circumcision advocates seeking to show benefits of circumcision, studies about the harm of circumcision are often ignored. What we do not know about the harm of circumcision is not acknowledged in the debate, another sign that the debate is not open. Advocates only want to talk about the claims of their studies. Many other questions need to be answered.

Awareness about circumcision is changing, and investigation of the psychological and social effects of circumcision opens a valuable new area of inquiry. Researchers are encouraged to include circumcision status as part of the data to be collected for other studies and to explore a range of potential research topics. Unexplored areas include testing male infants, older children, and adults for changes in feelings, attitudes, and behaviors (especially antisocial behavior); physiological, neurological, and neurochemical differences; and sexual and emotional functioning.

For example, the effect of circumcision on male distrust, anxiety, and anger toward women is unrecognized and unexamined. Do the psychological and sexual consequences of circumcision affect America’s uniquely high divorce rate? We do not know.

Circumcision is traumatic and changes the brain. Does circumcision affect the prevalence of autism (almost five times more common in boys) and ADHD (about three times more common in boys)? We do not know. Amish who do not practice circumcision have a low rate of autism. Somali immigrants in Sweden practice circumcision and have a high rate of autism compared to Swedish children. Autism rates in the U.S. are higher among groups with higher circumcision rates (e.g., whites compared to blacks, blacks compared to Hispanics). A 2013 study found, “For studies including boys born after 1995, there was a strong correlation between country-level (n=9) autism/ASD prevalence in males and a country’s circumcision rate (r=0.98). A very similar pattern was seen among U.S. states and when comparing the 3 main racial/ethnic groups in the U.S.”

Sudden infant death syndrome occurs more often in boys than in girls. The rise and fall of male infant mortality correlates with the rise and fall of the circumcision rate. Is circumcision a contributing factor? See Studies on Circumcision.

College students and researchers may contact us for more information.