Send to:

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Am J Psychiatry. 1999 Apr;156(4):557-63.

Psychiatric disorder and the broad autism phenotype: evidence from a family study of multiple-incidence autism families.

Author information

  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University of Iowa College of Medicine, Iowa City 52242-1000, USA.



Several studies have shown familial aggregation of some axis I psychiatric disorders in families ascertained through a single autistic proband. In this study the authors examined the rate of axis I psychiatric disorders in nonautistic relatives from multiple-incidence autism families and the possible relationship of these disorders to the broad autism phenotype.


The rates of axis I psychiatric disorders, assessed by using semistructured and family history interviews, were compared in parents, grandparents, and aunts and uncles ascertained through 25 families of multiple-incidence autism probands and 30 families of probands with Down's syndrome. The possible association between selected psychiatric disorders and the broad autism phenotype, assessed directly through semistructured interviews and observational rating measures, was also examined in the two groups of parents.


The parents of the autistic probands had significantly higher rates of major depressive disorder and social phobia than the parents of the Down's syndrome probands. The high rate of depression in the parents of the autistic probands was consistent with the high rates of depression and anxiety detected in the grandparents and aunts and uncles in the autism families by family history. There was no evidence of an association, within individuals, between either depression or social phobia and the broad autism phenotype.


Relatives of autistic individuals have high rates of major depression and social phobia that are not associated with the broad autism phenotype and cannot be explained by the increased stress associated with raising an autistic child. Alternative mechanisms and the scientific and clinical implications of these findings are discussed.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Atypon
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk