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Autism Associated with Family Mental Health History

By Chelsea E. Toledo, M.A. on September 13, 2012



Until the 1980s, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) was commonly diagnosed as childhood schizophrenia. Although ASD and schizophrenia are now regarded as distinct, common causal factors—such as genetic variations—can contribute to either condition, as well as to bipolar disorder.


What’s New:

In the 2 July 2012 online edition of the journal Archives of General Psychiatry, researchers report that ASD appears more frequently in people whose parents or siblings have been diagnosed with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. The researchers studied over 30,000 medical records from Sweden and Israel and found that ASD was three times more likely to occur in people whose parents had a schizophrenia diagnosis. For people whose siblings had schizophrenia, ASD appeared 2.5 times more often in the Swedish group and 12 times more often in the group from Israel. In the entire sample, ASD was about twice as likely to occur when either a sibling or a parent was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.


Why it’s important:

The understanding of ASD’s cause remains incomplete. By studying factors that make ASD more common in some families than in others, researchers gain greater knowledge of the disorder’s etiology.

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