Family History of Eating Disorder and the Broad Autism Phenotype in Autism

Bianca A. Barrionuevo, Aneesa R. Chowdhury, Joycelyn M. Lee, Nicole D. Dueker, Eden R. Martin, Margaret A. Pericak-Vance, Michael Cuccaro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Autism features occur frequently among individuals with eating disorders (ED). This co-occurrence is not well understood but there is speculation that select traits (e.g., rigidity) are common to both autism and ED. To explore the co-occurrence of autistic traits and ED features, we used the Simons Simplex Collection (SSC; N = 2,623 families) to test whether first-degree relatives of individuals with autism with a history of ED features had more autism traits, as measured by the Broad Autism Phenotype Questionnaire (BAP-Q), compared to relatives with no history of ED. The frequency of individuals with ED features was 2.2% (N = 57) among mothers, <1% in siblings, and not present in fathers. We restricted our analyses to mothers. Compared to mothers with no history of ED, those with a history of ED had significantly higher scores on the BAP-Q Total Score and each of the three BAP-Q domains. More importantly, when the BAP-Q was used as a classification tool, we found that when compared to mothers with no history of ED, those with a history of ED were most likely to fall into the clinically significant range on the BAP-Q Rigid domain. Our results suggest that a history of ED features among mothers of individuals with autism is associated with the presence of autistic traits. This extends previous work showing a relationship between autism and ED and expands the range of neuropsychiatric traits that have relevance to the BAP among family members of individuals with autism. Lay Summary: Using information from the Simons Simplex Collection we tested whether mothers of individuals with autism with a history of eating disorder had more autism traits (i.e., similar to those in autism but milder) compared to mothers with no history of eating disorder. The most striking difference between the groups was the presence of rigidity in mothers with a history of eating disorder. This extends previous work showing a relationship between autism and eating disorders and suggests the utility of studying eating disorders in future family studies of autism. Autism Res 2020, 13: 1573–1581.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1573-1581
Number of pages9
JournalAutism Research
Volume13
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020

Keywords

  • broad autism phenotype
  • co-morbid conditions
  • family studies
  • phenotype
  • restricted/repetitive behaviors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Genetics(clinical)

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