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Clinical research: Short test finds autism traits in families

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Jessica Wright
26 April 2013

Autism traits: Personal questions assess whether the parent of a child with autism is aloof, rigid or has problems with language.

A 36-question survey detects features of autism in as much as 23 percent of parents of children with autism and 9 percent of control parents, researchers reported 20 February in Autism Research1.

Researchers designed the Broad Autism Phenotype Questionnaire (BAPQ) in 2007 and tested it on 150 participants2.

Broad autism phenotype (BAP) refers to traits of autism that reach a threshold but are not significant enough to warrant a diagnosis of autism. BAP is most common in families that have multiple children with autism.

The BAPQ’s 36 questions score three characteristics: social aloofness, a rigid personality and problems with language, three common symptoms of autism.

The researchers analyzed responses to the questions from 711 parents of children with autism and 981 parents of typically developing children. A spouse or close friend also filled out a questionnaire about each parent. In the autism group, 12 percent of the parents have more than one child with the disorder.

Parents of children with autism have similar overall BAPQ scores, but fathers tend to be more aloof than mothers, according to the questionnaire. In general, those who score high in one domain tend to do so in the others as well.

For example, 18 percent of the mothers and about 11 percent of the fathers have more than one BAP feature, compared with about 3 percent of mothers of controls and 5 percent of fathers of controls. The questionnaire could be used to classify BAP for genetics studies, the researchers say.

News and Opinion articles on SFARI.org are editorially independent of the Simons Foundation.


1: Sasson N.J. et al. Autism Res. Epub ahead of print (2013) PubMed

2: Hurley R.S. et al. J. Autism Dev. Disord. 37, 1679-1690 (2007) PubMed


Name: Louis Noreau
30 April 2013 - 7:45PM

Will a version of the BAP questionaire be available online for self evaluation ? I would complement the already available Autistic Quotient questionnaire ? (http://aq.server8.org/)

Name: BAP mom
7 August 2014 - 1:16PM

I could see this BAP for a while now, so glad there is research and terminology behind it now instead of jut my own anecdotal observations. People would bite my head off when I state that I believed in 'the regrigerator mom' theory -- I would not be permitted to elaborate. The refrigerator mom theory is NOT wrong or offensive but likely an unfortunate reality that we need to be sensitive to. The refrigerator mom is not to be blamed for CAUSING autism but likely shows a real genetic connection. However it CANNOT be helpful when an 'aloof' person (I mean in presentation and in the neuro-behavioral sense, not that she does not actually love or care) has a more severe, maybe non-verbal, autistic child, how can she bring this child out of his/her shell and foster personal-connections, teach social skills, etc. (unless she is given the support and taught to do so -- as is only finally occurring in recent times).

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