You are here:
-A A +A

Parents of children with autism more likely to have some ASD traits

Date Published: 
July 1, 2014

Parents of children with autism are more likely to have some traits of the disorder than parents of unaffected children, according to a new study in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.1

Previous studies have found such traits in the brothers and sisters of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), but this is the first large study to look at their parents. “When there was a child with autism in the family, both parents more often scored in the top 20 percent of the adult population on a survey we use to measure the presence of autistic traits,” researcher John N. Constantino, MD, said in a news release from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.2 The survey is called the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS).

“It could be that a mother or a father is just a little bit repetitive or slightly overfocused on details,” Dr. Constantino said.

But having a higher score on the SRS survey does not mean that the parent is having problems. "In fact, there may be advantages to having some of those traits. The problem comes when those traits are so intense that they begin to impair a person’s ability to function,” he said.

The researchers studied 256 children with autism, about 1,400 children who did not have ASD, more than 1,200 mothers, and 1,600 fathers.

Couples who both had mildly elevated scores were 85 percent more likely to have a child with ASD. If only one parent had a higher score, the risk of having a child on the spectrum rose 53 percent when compared to couples with lower SRS scores.

In addition to Dr. Constantino, researchers from Harvard School of Public Health and University of California, Davis, took part in the study.