Differences in Cognition and Behaviour in Multiplex and Simplex Autism: Does Prior Experience Raising a Child with Autism Matter?

  • Daniel Berends
  • Cheryl Dissanayake
  • Lauren P. LawsonEmail author
Original Paper


Previous research has found multiplex (MPX) children have an advantage in cognition compared to simplex (SPX) children. However, MPX parent’s previous experience with older diagnosed siblings has not been considered. We used a large database sample to investigate the MPX advantage and contribution of birth order. Children from the Autism Genetic Resource Exchange (AGRE) were stratified into first- (MPX1, n  = 152) and second-affected MPX (MPX2, n  = 143), SPX (n  = 111), and only-child SPX (SPXOC, n  = 23) groups. Both MPX groups had higher cognitive scores compared to SPX groups, with no differences between MPX1 and MPX2 groups. No differences were found for autism symptoms or adaptive behaviour. These results suggest parent experience due to birth order is an unlikely contributor to the MPX cognitive advantage.


Autism spectrum disorder Multiplex Simplex Parent experience Cognition 



LPL is funded by the Cooperative Research Centre for Living with Autism (Autism CRC). The authors are also extremely grateful to all the study participants and their families for contributing to the project. We acknowledge support from the Autism Genetic Resource Exchange (AGRE) and Autism Speaks. We gratefully acknowledge the resources provided by AGRE and the participating AGRE families. The Autism Genetic Resource Exchange (AGRE) is a Program of Autism Speaks.

Author Contribution

DB conceived and designed the study under the supervision of CD and LPL. DB cleaned and analysed the data. The manuscript was drafted by DB under the supervision of CD and LPL. LPL and CD critically reviewed the manuscript and provided feedback. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors. Ethical approval for the analysis of de-identified human data was obtained from La Trobe University Human Research Ethics Committee.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel Berends
    • 1
  • Cheryl Dissanayake
    • 1
  • Lauren P. Lawson
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre, School of Psychology and Public Health, College of Science, Health and EngineeringLa Trobe UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.Cooperative Research Centre for Living with Autism (Autism CRC)BrisbaneAustralia

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