Personality traits such as aloofness, rigidity and pragmatic language difficulties were suggested as key components of the broader autism phenotype (BAP) in parents of children with autism.
To explore sex differences between mothers and fathers of individuals with autism using the Broad Autism Phenotype Questionnaire (BAPQ; Hurley, Losh, Parlier, Reznick, & Piven, 2007), an efficient screening tool for detection of BAP manifestations in adult relatives of individuals with autism. We hypothesized that fathers will manifest higher scores (i.e., more BAP-related difficulties) than mothers on the three scales of aloofness, rigid personality and pragmatic language.
The BAPQ was administered to mothers and fathers of 38 children diagnosed with autism both as a self-report and as a spouse informant (e.g., mother reporting about father and father reporting about mother). Three set of scores were obtained for each parent: (1) self-report score; (2) the informant score; and (3) best-estimate score (average of self-report and informant scores). Parents' characteristics (e.g., parents' chronological age, IQ estimate score) as well as child’s characteristics (e.g., severity of symptoms score, developmental/IQ scores) were also obtained.
Fathers were rated as more "aloof" than mothers whereas mothers were rated as more "rigid" than fathers based on informant and best-estimate scores. As informants fathers perceived and described their wives as less "aloof" and more "rigid" compared to the self descriptions of the mothers. Parents' age, IQ and SES status as well as children's IQ, Vineland score, and ADOS severity scores' were not correlated with parental BAPQ scores.
These findings are in line with other studies indicating that fathers of individuals with autism, as well as males in general, reveal BAPQ related characteristics. In contrast to previous findings, mothers in our sample revealed significantly higher scores of rigid personality compare to fathers. This finding may be associated with adherence to keeping routines which is important in bringing up a child with special needs or to a genetic liability to autism. The pattern of distinctive sex differences emerged for both the informant and best-estimate versions but not for the self-report version, highlighting the importance of using both self-report and informant versions for the measurement of BAP manifestations in parents of individuals with autism.
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See more of: Symptoms, Diagnosis & Phenotype