Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 42, Issue 12, pp 2585–2596 | Cite as

Sex Differences in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder Identified Within a High-Risk Infant Cohort

  • Lonnie ZwaigenbaumEmail author
  • Susan E. Bryson
  • Peter Szatmari
  • Jessica Brian
  • Isabel M. Smith
  • Wendy Roberts
  • Tracy Vaillancourt
  • Caroline Roncadin
Original Paper


Sex differences were examined in 3-year-olds with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) ascertained from a high-risk cohort, and high- and low-risk comparison groups. Participants included 319 high-risk siblings and 129 low-risk controls. Eighty-five siblings were diagnosed with ASD, including 57 of 176 boys (32.4 %) and 28 of 143 girls (19.6 %), implying a relative odds of ASD of 1.65 in boys versus girls. There were modest sex differences on cognitive and adaptive skills and ASD symptom severity at age 3, but differences between boys and girls with ASD mirrored those in the non-ASD groups. The lower than expected male-to-female ratio, and the relatively high cognitive level among diagnosed children, suggest that we have identified an unanticipated number of higher-functioning girls with ASD.


Autism Early diagnosis Sex differences Infants Longitudinal study 



This research project was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Autism Speaks Canada and NeuroDevNet. Dr. Zwaigenbaum is supported by the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation Chair in Autism Research and by a Health Scholar Award from the Alberta Innovates – Health Solutions. Dr. Bryson, is supported by the Jack and Joan Craig Chair in Autism Research, Dr. Szatmari is supported by the Chedoke Health Chair in Child Psychiatry, and Dr. Vaillancourt is supported by a Canada Research Chair in Children’s Mental Health and Violence Protection. We would like also like to thank the children and families who have participated in this project.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lonnie Zwaigenbaum
    • 1
    • 7
    Email author
  • Susan E. Bryson
    • 2
  • Peter Szatmari
    • 3
  • Jessica Brian
    • 4
  • Isabel M. Smith
    • 2
  • Wendy Roberts
    • 4
  • Tracy Vaillancourt
    • 5
  • Caroline Roncadin
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of PediatricsUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  2. 2.Departments of Pediatrics and PsychologyDalhousie UniversityHalifaxCanada
  3. 3.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral NeurosciencesMcMaster UniversityHamiltonCanada
  4. 4.Department of PediatricsUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  5. 5.Faculty of Education and School of PsychologyUniversity of OttawaOttawaCanada
  6. 6.Department of PsychologyPeel Infant DevelopmentMississaugaCanada
  7. 7.Glenrose Rehabilitation HospitalEdmontonCanada

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