Heritability Of Autistic Traits

Moderate to high heritability was found for autistic traits in the general population (53% for females and 72% for males). High heritability was found in extreme-scoring groups. There were no differences in heritability among extreme groups or between the extreme groups and the general population. A continuous liability shift toward autistic trait affectedness was seen in the cotwins of individuals scoring in the top 1%, suggesting shared etiology between extreme scores and normal variation.


Monozygotic (MZ) twins display from 60% to 90% concordance for ASD; the concordance in dizygotic (DZ) twins has been estimated from 0% to 30%.1 - 7


Modest to high heritability has been reported for autistic traits assessed quantitatively in the general population,8 - 13 although assessments have varied in their estimates of genetic and environmental contributions.14 - 21 Reported values of heritability vary from 36%18 to 87%.12 ,18


1 Rutter M, Silberg J, O’Connor T, Simonoff E. Genetics and child psychiatry, II: empirical research findings. J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 1999;40(1):19-55 [...]

2 Bailey A, Le Couteur A, Gottesman I, Bolton P, Simonoff E, Yuzda E, Rutter M. Autism as a strongly genetic disorder: evidence from a British twin study. Psychol Med. 1995;25(1):63-77 [...]

3 Rosenberg RE, Daniels AM, Law JK, Law PA, Kaufmann WE. Trends in autism spectrum disorder diagnoses: 1994-2007. J Autism Dev Disord. 2009;39(8):1099-1111 [...]

4 Taniai H, Nishiyama T, Miyachi T, Imaeda M, Sumi S. Genetic influences on the broad spectrum of autism: study of proband-ascertained twins. Am J Med Genet B Neuropsychiatr Genet. 2008;147B(6):844-849 [...]

5 Steffenburg S, Gillberg C, Hellgren L, Andersson L, Gillberg IC, Jakobsson G, Bohman M. A twin study of autism in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 1989;30(3):405-416 [...]

6 Lichtenstein P, Carlstrom E, Rastam M, Gillberg C, Anckarsater H. The genetics of autism spectrum disorders and related neuropsychiatric disorders in childhood. Am J Psychiatry. 2010;167(11):1357-1363 [...]

7 Ronald A, Hoekstra RA. Autism spectrum disorders and autistic traits: a decade of new twin studies [published online ahead of print January 13, 2011]. Am J Med Genet B Neuropsychiatr Genet [...]

8 Skuse DH, Mandy WP, Scourfield J. Measuring autistic traits: heritability, reliability and validity of the Social and Communication Disorders Checklist. Br J Psychiatry. 2005;187568-572 [...]

9 Stilp RL, Gernsbacher MA, Schweigert EK, Arneson CL, Goldsmith HH. Genetic variance for autism screening items in an unselected sample of toddler-age twins. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2010;49(3):267-276 [...]

10 Edelson LR, Saudino KJ. Genetic and environmental influences on autistic-like behaviors in 2-year-old twins. Behav Genet. 2009;39(3):255-264 [...]

11 Constantino JN, Todd RD. Genetic structure of reciprocal social behavior. Am J Psychiatry. 2000;157(12):2043-2045 [...]

12 Constantino JN, Todd RD. Intergenerational transmission of subthreshold autistic traits in the general population. Biol Psychiatry. 2005;57(6):655-660 [...]

13 Scourfield J, Martin N, Lewis G, McGuffin P. Heritability of social cognitive skills in children and adolescents. Br J Psychiatry. 1999;175559-564 [...]

14 Hoekstra RA, Bartels M, Verweij CJ, Boomsma DI. Heritability of autistic traits in the general population. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2007;161(4):372-377 [...]

15 Constantino JN, Hudziak JJ, Todd RD. Deficits in reciprocal social behavior in male twins: evidence for a genetically independent domain of psychopathology. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2003;42(4):458-467 [...]

16 Ronald A, Happé F, Bolton P, Butcher LM, Price TS, Wheelwright S, Baron-Cohen S, Plomin R. Genetic heterogeneity between the three components of the autism spectrum: a twin study. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2006;45(6):691-699 [...]

17 Ronald A, Happé F, Plomin R. Genetic research into autism. Science. 2006;311(5763):952 [...]

18 Ronald A, Happé F, Plomin R. A twin study investigating the genetic and environmental aetiologies of parent, teacher and child ratings of autistic-like traits and their overlap. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2008;17(8):473-483 [...]

19 Ronald A, Happé F, Plomin R. The genetic relationship between individual differences in social and nonsocial behaviours characteristic of autism. Dev Sci. 2005;8(5):444-458 [...]

20 Constantino JN, Todd RD. Autistic traits in the general population: a twin study. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2003;60(5):524-530 [...]

21 Ronald A, Larsson H, Anckarsäter H, Lichtenstein P. A twin study of autism symptoms in Sweden. Mol Psychiatry. 2010; [...]

-- Elise B. Robinson , Karestan C. Koenen , Marie C. McCormick , Kerim Munir , Victoria Hallett , Francesca Happé , Robert Plomin , Angelica Ronald

from "Evidence That Autistic Traits Show the Same Etiology in the General Population and at the Quantitative Extremes (5%, 2.5%, and 1%)"

Quoted on Sun Jul 1st, 2012