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Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 2011 Dec;46(12):1283-93. doi: 10.1007/s00127-010-0294-z. Epub 2010 Oct 12.

Social and demographic factors that influence the diagnosis of autistic spectrum disorders.

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  • 1ESRC Centre for Genomics in Society, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK.



Recent studies in epidemiology have highlighted the existence of children with autistic difficulties who remain undiagnosed. Other studies have identified 'access barriers' to clinics which include factors mediated by parents as well as health and education services. The purpose of this study was to examine whether social and demographic factors play a role in receiving a diagnosis of autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) independently of symptom severity.


Retrospective secondary analysis of a longitudinal UK cohort study, namely, the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC).


With the severity of autistic traits held constant, boys were more likely to receive an ASD diagnosis than girls. Younger mothers and mothers of first-born children were significantly less likely to have children diagnosed with ASD. Maternal depression before and around the time of their children's autistic difficulties was associated with lack of diagnosis.


The study provides evidence that social as well as biological factors can influence whether children are brought to the clinic.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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