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Mol Autism. 2019 Mar 29;10:16. doi: 10.1186/s13229-019-0266-4. eCollection 2019.

The role of gender in the perception of autism symptom severity and future behavioral development.

Author information

1ACTE at LaDisco and ULB Neuroscience Institute, Université libre de Bruxelles, CP 175, 50 avenue F.D. Roosevelt, 1050 Brussels, Belgium.
2CeSCUP, Université libre de Bruxelles, CP122, 50 avenue F.D. Roosevelt, 1050 Brussels, Belgium.
3Leibniz-Zentrum Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft (ZAS), Schützenstr. 18, 10117 Berlin, Germany.



Increasing attention is being paid to the higher prevalence of boys with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and to the implications of this ratio discrepancy on our understanding of autism in girls. One recent avenue of research has focused on caregiver's concern, suggesting that autism might present differently in boys and girls. One unexplored factor related to concerns on child development is whether socio-cultural factors such as gender-related expectations influence the evaluation of symptom severity and predictions about future behavioral development.


The latter concerns were the focus of the present study and were explored by investigating laypeople's judgment of the severity of autism symptoms using an online parent role-playing paradigm, in which participants were asked to rate vignettes depicting the behaviors of a child in different everyday life scenarios. The child's gender and the severity of ASD symptoms were manipulated to examine the effect of gender on the perception of symptom severity.


Results suggest that there are no gender differences in perceived symptom severity and associated degree of concern for 5-year-old boys and girls but that there is a gender difference in perceived future atypicality at 15 years old, with boys being rated as more likely to be perceived as atypical by their peers at that age than girls.


Investigating parent's cognition about their child's future behavioral development can provide additional information regarding delayed diagnosis of autistic girls.


Adolescence; Caregiver; Concern; Gender bias; Sex ratio; Symptom severity

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Conflict of interest statement

Not applicable.Not applicable.The authors declare that they have no competing interests.Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

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