According to new research, if a child has an aunt or uncle diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, there is a substantially higher risk to also be diagnosed with the condition. Their study was publicized in the journal Biological Psychology.
Autism spectrum disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder with an early onset during early childhood. Males are significantly more likely to have autism, but females have a higher likelihood of diagnosis at a later age.
The study was conducted by a research team in the U.S. and Sweden. It included the medical records of more than 800,000 Swedish children and relatives. Nearly 13,000 of the children were autistic.
Initiated between 2003 and 2012, the study found that the offspring of mothers with at least one sibling diagnosed with autism were three times more likely to also be diagnosed. A child’s father with at least one sibling with autism doubles the risk of diagnosis for the child; the outcome is similar to mothers.
Overall, the findings point to evidence of autism transmission risk for siblings of people affected by autism.
“The results offer important new information for counseling people who have a sibling with ASD,” said Alice Kau, an NIH funder of the study. “The findings also suggest that the greater prevalence of ASD in males is likely not due to a female protective effect.”