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Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2012 Nov;69(11):1099-1103.

Family history of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder as risk factors for autism.

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  • 1Department of Genetics, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA.



The clinical and etiologic relation between autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and schizophrenia is unclear. The degree to which these disorders share a basis in etiology has important implications for clinicians, researchers, and those affected by the disorders.


To determine whether a family history of schizophrenia and/or bipolar disorder is a risk factor for ASD.


We conducted a case-control evaluation of histories of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder in first-degree relatives of probands in 3 samples—population registers in Sweden, Stockholm County (in Sweden), and Israel. Probands met criteria for ASD, and affection status of parents and siblings for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder were established.


The presence of schizophrenia in parents was associated with an increased risk for ASD in a Swedish national cohort (odds ratio [OR], 2.9; 95% CI, 2.5-3.4) and a Stockholm County cohort (OR, 2.9; 95% CI, 2.0-4.1). Similarly, schizophrenia in a sibling was associated with an increased risk for ASD in a Swedish national cohort (OR, 2.6; 95% CI, 2.0-3.2) and an Israeli conscription cohort (OR, 12.1; 95% CI, 4.5-32.0). Bipolar disorder showed a similar pattern of associations but of lesser magnitude.


Findings from these 3 registers along with consistent findings from a similar study in Denmark suggest that ASD, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder share common etiologic factors.

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