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Association between extreme autistic traits and intellectual disability: insights from a general population twin study

Hoekstra, R.A.; Happé, F.; Baron-Cohen, S. and Ronald, A. (2009). Association between extreme autistic traits and intellectual disability: insights from a general population twin study. British Journal of Psychiatry, 195(6) pp. 531–536.

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Background: Autism is associated with intellectual disability. The strength and origin of this association is unclear.

Aims: To investigate the association between extreme autistic traits and intellectual disability in children from a community-based sample and to examine whether the association can be explained by genetic factors.

Method: Children scoring in the extreme 5% on measures of autistic traits, IQ and academic achievement were selected from 7965 7/8-year-old and 3687 9-year-old twin pairs. Phenotypic associations between extreme autistic traits and intellectual disability were compared with associations among the full-range scores. Genetic correlations were estimated using bivariate DeFries–Fulker extremes analyses.

Results: Extreme autistic traits were modestly related to intellectual disability; this association was driven by communication problems characteristic of autism. Although this association was largely explained by genetic factors, the genetic correlation between autistic traits and intellectual disability was only modest.

Conclusions: Extreme autistic traits are substantially genetically independent of intellectual disability.

Item Type: Journal Article
Copyright Holders: 2009 Royal College of Psychiatrists
ISSN: 0007-1269
Extra Information: This is an author-produced electronic version of an article accepted for publication in the British Journal of Psychiatry. The definitive publisher-authenticated version is available online at
Academic Unit/Department: Science > Life, Health and Chemical Sciences
Interdisciplinary Research Centre: Biomedical Research Network (BRN)
Item ID: 19204
Depositing User: Rosa Hoekstra
Date Deposited: 11 Dec 2009 11:11
Last Modified: 24 Feb 2016 01:31
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