Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 21, Issue 2, pp 197-209

First online:

Pre- and perinatal factors in high-functioning females and males with autism

  • Catherine LordAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina
  • , Catherine MulloyAffiliated withUniversity of Alberta
  • , Michael WendelboeAffiliated withUniversity of Alberta
  • , Eric SchoplerAffiliated withUniversity of North Carolina

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Pregnancy and delivery complications as indicated in medical records and maternal reports for 23 high-functioning autistic females and 23 high-functioning males of similar IQ and age were compared with those of 54 of their normally developing siblings. Autistic subjects of both sexes had higher non-optimality scores than their siblings. Much of this difference was accounted for by a higher incidence of firstborns and fourth- or later-borns in the autistic group. Of factors found in previous research with mentally handicapped, autistic samples, only estimated weeks of gestation greater than 42 occurred more often in autistic subjects than siblings. The only sex difference specific to the autistic group was that autistic males came from larger families than females. These data provide slight support for the contribution of nonspecific pre- and perinatal factors to other etiological bases of autism. It is proposed that pre- and perinatal factors may play less of a role in autism in high-functioning individuals than suggested in studies of autism associated with severe retardation.