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BAPQ As a Predictor of Child Functioning in Autism Spectrum Disorders

Friday, 3 May 2013: 14:00-18:00
Banquet Hall (Kursaal Centre)
J. C. Bush, C. R. Maxwell, O. Hsin and R. T. Schultz, Center for Autism Research, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA
Background: Broad autism phenotype (BAP) is a milder expression of the social, non social and language impairments seen in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Most studies have used the BAP construct in the context of examining family members of a proband with ASD for BAP characteristics. However, the relationship between BAP traits in parents of children with ASD and the proband’s symptomatology remains poorly understood.

Objectives: This study examines this relationship by utilizing the Broader Autism Phenotype Questionnaire (BAPQ), Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS) and Social Communication Questionnaire (SCQ). We hypothesize that the parent BAPQ would be correlated with great ASD symptomatology in their child with ASD. We also predicted elevated BAP traits in parents of children with ASD compared to those of typically developing controls (TDC), as has been found in other studies.

Methods: One hundred nineteen children with ASD (109 Male) and 97 typically developing controls (70 Male) and their parents were enrolled in the study. ADI-R, ADOS, and expert clinical judgment were used to confirm ASD diagnoses in the children. Groups were matched on age (ASD:  M=10.9 ± 3.2; TDC: M=11.2 ± 3.6; p=0.52) but not IQ (ASD: M=99.7 ± 22.2; TDC: M=114.140 ± 14.4; p<0.001) or sex ratio. Each parent was asked to complete a self-report BAPQ and a parent to child SRS and SCQ.

Results: Preliminary analyses indicate that both mothers and fathers of children with ASD have significantly higher rates of BAP traits compared to those of TDCs (Mothers:  p=0.002; Fathers:  p=0.008). Parental BAP total scores were not correlated to child IQ (Mother r=-0.048, p=0.469; Father r=0.095, p=0.162). Thirty-three of 238 (13.9%) ASD parents scored above the established BAP threshold compared to 12 of 194 (6.2%) TDC parents (p=0.011). ASD children has significantly higher SRS and SCQ scored compared to TDCs (p<0.001). Pearson correlations showed ASD father, but not mother, BAPQ total scores to be significantly correlated to child SRS scores (r=0.298, p=0.001). Conversely, only the TDC mother BAPQ totals were correlated to child SRS scores (r=0.489, p<0.001). Within ASD, BAP present fathers had children with significantly higher SRS scores than those fathers who did not meet BAP threshold (p=0.026). Neither group showed significant correlations with the SCQ.

Conclusions: As expected, BAP scores were greater for parents of children with ASD compared to TDC. Our results suggest that there may be different inheritance patterns among ASD and TDC families as ASD children’s social functioning was strongly correlated to their fathers’ BAP while TDC children’s was strongly correlated to their mothers’ BAP. Moreover, these findings should be considered in future phenotypic and genetic studies. The lack of association between BAPQ and SCQ may be explained by the fact that the Lifetime SCQ was administered and thus our scores did not reflect the child’s current presentation as in the SRS. Elevated BAP in parents of children with ASD may be predictive of other important ASD subtype-like differences. A wider set of hypotheses examining this issue are ongoing with this rich dataset.

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