Broad Autism Phenotypic Traits and the Relationship to Sexual Orientation and Sexual Behavior
Individuals with higher levels of the broad autism phenotype (BAP) have some symptoms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Like individuals with ASD, people with higher-BAP may have fewer sexual experiences and may experience more same-sex attraction. This study measured BAP traits, sexual experiences, and sexual orientation in typically developing (TD) individuals to see if patterns of sexual behavior and sexual orientation in higher-BAP resemble those in ASD. Although BAP characteristics did not predict sexual experiences, one BAP measure significantly predicted sexual orientation, β = 0.22, t = 2.72, p = .007, controlling for demographic variables (R2 change = .04, F = 7.41, p = .007), showing individuals with higher-BAP also reported increased same-sex attraction. This finding supports the hypothesis that individuals with higher-BAP resemble ASD individuals in being more likely than TD individuals to experience same-sex attraction.
KeywordsBroad autism phenotype Sexual behavior Sexual orientation Same-sex attraction
This study was performed in partial fulfillment of the requirements for a Master’s Thesis for LRQ, who wishes to acknowledge the members of her committee. Data from this research was also presented as a poster at the International Meeting for Autism Research in San Francisco, CA on May 11th, 2017.
LRQ conceived of the study idea and design, collected and analyzed the data, and drafted the manuscript. KH participated in the design and coordination of the study. JFP participated in the study design and data analysis for the study. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
- Baron-Cohen, S., Wheelwright, S., Skinner, R., Martin, J., & Clubley, E. (2001). The autism-spectrum quotient (AQ): Evidence from Asperger syndrome/high-functioning autism, males and females, scientists and mathematicians. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 31(1), 5–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Best, C. S., Moffat, V. J., Power, M. J., Owens, D. G. C., & Johnstone, E. C. (2008). The boundaries of the cognitive phenotype of autism: Theory of mind, central coherence and ambiguous figure perception in young people with autistic traits. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 38(5), 840–847. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-007-0451-8.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Cox, A., Kohls, G., Naples, A. J., Mukerji, C. E., Coffman, M. C., Rutherford, H. J. V., … McPartland, J. C. (2015). Diminished social reward anticipation in the broad autism phenotype as revealed by event-related brain potentials. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 10(10), 1357–1364. https://doi.org/10.1093/scan/nsv024.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- DeWinter, J., De Graaf, H., & Begeer, S. (2017). Sexual orientation, gender identity, and romantic relationships in adolescents and adults with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 47(9), 2927–2934. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-017-3199-9.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Hoekstra, R. A., Bartels, M., Cath, D. C., & Boomsma, D. I. (2008). Factor structure, reliability and criterion validity of the autism-spectrum quotient (AQ): A study in Dutch population and patient groups. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 38(8), 1555–1566. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-008-0538-x.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Howlin, P., Mawhood, L., & Rutter, M. (2000). Autism and developmental receptive language disorder-a follow-up comparison in early adult life. II: Social, behavioural, and psychiatric outcomes. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, and Allied Disciplines, 41(5), 561–578. https://doi.org/10.1111/1469-7610.00643.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Hurst, R. M., Mitchell, J. T., Kimbrel, N. A., Kwapil, T. K., & Nelson-Gray, R. O. (2007). Examination of the reliability and factor structure of the Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ) in a non-clinical sample. Personality and Individual Differences, 43(7), 1938–1949. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2007.06.012.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Ingersoll, B., Hopwood, C. J., Wainer, A., & Brent Donnellan, M. (2011). A comparison of three self-report measures of the broader autism phenotype in a non-clinical sample. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 41(12), 1646–1657. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-011-1192-2.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Kunihira, Y., Senju, A., Dairoku, H., Wakabayashi, A., & Hasegawa, T. (2006). “Autistic” traits in non-autistic Japanese populations: Relationships with personality traits and cognitive ability. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 36(4), 553–566. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-006-0094-1.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Piven, J., & Palmer, P. (1997). Cognitive deficits in parents from multiple-incidence autism families. The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 38(8), 1011–1021. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-7610.1997.tb01618.x.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Rainie, B. L., & Madden, M. (2005). Not looking for love: The state of romance in America. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/2006/02/13/romance-in-america/.
- Visser, K., Greaves-Lord, K., Tick, N. T., Verhulst, F. C., Maras, A., & van der Vegt, E. J. M. (2015). Study protocol: A randomized controlled trial investigating the effects of a psychosexual training program for adolescents with autism spectrum disorder. BMC Psychiatry, 15, 1–10. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12888-015-0586-7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Wang, W., & Parker, K. (2014). Record share of Americans have never married: As values, economics and gender patterns change. Washington, DC: Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends Project.Google Scholar