Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 41, Issue 12, pp 1733–1737 | Cite as

Brief Report: No Association Between Parental Age and Extreme Social-Communicative Autistic Traits in the General Population

  • Elise B. Robinson
  • Kerim Munir
  • Marie C. McCormick
  • Karestan C. Koenen
  • Susan L. Santangelo
Brief Report


This is the first investigation of the relationship between parental age and extreme social-communicative autistic traits in the general population. The parents of 5,246 children in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) completed the Social and Communication Disorders Checklist (SCDC). The association between parental age and SCDC scores was assessed in the full sample and among high scoring individuals (e.g. top 5%, 1%). There was no association between parental age and social-communicative autistic traits in the general population. Neither maternal nor paternal age was associated with extreme scores. These findings suggest that advanced parental age does not confer increased risk for extreme social and communication impairment assessed quantitatively.


Autism spectrum disorders Autistic traits Parental age ALSPAC 


  1. Cantor, R. M., Yoon, J. L., Furr, J., & Lajonchere, C. M. (2007). Paternal age and autism are associated in a family-based sample. Molecular Psychiatry, 12(5), 419–421.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Cohen, P., & Cohen, J. (1984). The clinician’s illusion. Archives of General Psychiatry, 41, 1178–1182.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Croen, L. A., Najjar, D. V., Fireman, B., & Grether, J. K. (2007). Maternal and paternal age and risk of autism spectrum disorders. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 161(4), 334–340.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Durkin, M. S., Maenner, M. J., Newschaffer, C. J., Lee, L. C., Cunniff, C. M., Daniels, J. L., et al. (2008). Advanced parental age and the risk of autism spectrum disorder. American Journal of Epidemiology, 168(11), 1268–1276.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Fraser, A. M., Brockert, J. E., & Ward, R. H. (1995). Association of young maternal age with adverse reproductive outcomes. New England Journal of Medicine, 332(17), 1113–1117.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Grether, J. K., Anderson, M. C., Croen, L. A., Smith, D., & Windham, G. C. (2009). Risk of autism and increasing maternal and paternal age in a large north American population. American Journal of Epidemiology, 170(9), 1118–1126.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Hansson, S. L., Svanstrom Rojvall, A., Rastam, M., Gillberg, C., & Anckarsater, H. (2005). Psychiatric telephone interview with parents for screening of childhood autism - tics, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and other comorbidities (A-TAC): preliminary reliability and validity. British Journal of Psychiatry, 187, 262–267.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. King, M. D., Fountain, C., Dakhlallah, D., & Bearman, P. S. (2009). Estimated autism risk and older reproductive age. American Journal of Public Health, 99(9), 1673–1679.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Larsson, H. J., Eaton, W. W., Madsen, K. M., Vestergaard, M., Olesen, A. V., Agerbo, E., et al. (2005). Risk factors for autism: perinatal factors, parental psychiatric history, and socioeconomic status. Am J Epidemiol, 161(10), 916–925; discussion 926–918.Google Scholar
  10. Lundstrom, S., Haworth, C. M., Carlstrom, E., Gillberg, C., Mill, J., Rastam, M., et al. (2010). Trajectories leading to autism spectrum disorders are affected by paternal age: Findings from two nationally representative twin studies. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 51(7), 850–856.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Olsen, J., & Zhu, J. L. (2009). Re: “Advanced parental age and the risk of autism spectrum disorder”. Am J Epidemiol, 169(11), 1406; author reply 1406–1407.Google Scholar
  12. Peipert, J. F., & Bracken, M. B. (1993). Maternal age: An independent risk factor for cesarean delivery. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 81(2), 200–205.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Robinson, E.B., Koenen, K.C., McCormick, M.C., Munir, K., Hallett, V., Happé, F., Plomin, R., & Ronald, A. (2011). Evidence that autistic traits show the same etiology in the general population and at the quantitative extremes (5%, 2.5% and 1%). Manuscript submitted for publication.Google Scholar
  14. Saha, S., Barnett, A. G., Foldi, C., Burne, T. H., Eyles, D. W., Buka, S. L., et al. (2009). Advanced paternal age is associated with impaired neurocognitive outcomes during infancy and childhood. PLoS Med, 6(3), e40.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Sasanfar, R., Haddad, S. A., Tolouei, A., Ghadami, M., Yu, D., & Santangelo, S. L. (2010). Paternal age increases the risk for autism in an Iranian population sample. Molecular Autism, 1(1), 2.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Scott, F. J., Baron-Cohen, S., Bolton, P., & Brayne, C. (2002). The CAST (Childhood Asperger Syndrome Test): Preliminary development of a UK screen for mainstream primary-school-age children. Autism, 6(1), 9–31.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Shelton, J. F., Tancredi, D. J., & Hertz-Picciotto, I. (2010). Independent and dependent contributions of advanced maternal and paternal ages to autism risk. Autism Res, 3(1), 30–39.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Skuse, D. H., Mandy, W. P., & Scourfield, J. (2005). Measuring autistic traits: Heritability, reliability and validity of the Social and Communication Disorders Checklist. British Journal of Psychiatry, 187, 568–572.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Weschler, D., Golombok, J., & Rust, S. (1992). Manual for the Weschler intelligence scale for children (3rd ed.). Sidcup, UK: Psychological Corporation.Google Scholar
  20. Williams, J., Allison, C., Scott, F., Stott, C., Bolton, P., Baron-Cohen, S., et al. (2006). The Childhood Asperger Syndrome Test (CAST): Test-retest reliability. Autism, 10(4), 415–427.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Williams, E., Thomas, K., Sidebotham, H., & Emond, A. (2008). Prevalence and characteristics of autistic spectrum disorders in the ALSPAC cohort. Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, 50(9), 672–677.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elise B. Robinson
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Kerim Munir
    • 3
    • 4
  • Marie C. McCormick
    • 5
  • Karestan C. Koenen
    • 6
    • 7
  • Susan L. Santangelo
    • 1
    • 2
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of EpidemiologyHarvard School of Public HealthBostonUSA
  2. 2.Psychiatric and Neurodevelopmental Genetics UnitCenter for Human Genetic Research, Massachusetts General HospitalBostonUSA
  3. 3.Division of Developmental MedicineChildren’s Hospital BostonBostonUSA
  4. 4.Department of PsychiatryHarvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA
  5. 5.Department of Society, Human Development, and HealthHarvard School of Public HealthBostonUSA
  6. 6.Departments of Society, Human Development, and Health, and EpidemiologyHarvard School of Public HealthBostonUSA
  7. 7.Harvard Center on the Developing ChildCambridgeUSA

Personalised recommendations