King's College London

Research portal

A Multivariate Twin Study of Autistic Traits in 12-Year-Olds: Testing the Fractionable Autism Triad Hypothesis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Elise B. Robinson, Karestan C. Koenen, Marie C. McCormick, Kerim Munir, Victoria Hallett, Francesca Happe, Robert Plomin, Angelica Ronald

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)245 - 255
Number of pages11
JournalBehavior Genetics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2012

King's Authors


Autistic traits-social impairment, communication impairment, and restricted and repetitive behaviors and interests-are heritable in the general population. Previous analyses have consistently reported limited genetic and environmental overlap between autistic trait domains in samples assessed in middle childhood. Here we extend this research to parent-report data for 12-year-olds. Data from 5,944 pairs in the Twins Early Development Study were analyzed to explore the domain-specific heritability and degree of shared genetic and environmental influences across different autistic traits in the general population and among individuals scoring in the top 5% of each domain. Sex differences in the etiological estimates were also tested in these analyses. Autistic traits were moderately to highly heritable (0.58-0.88) at age 12. Bivariate genetic correlations in the full sample (0.18-0.40) and the extremes (0.24-0.67), as well as even lower unique environmental correlations, all suggested considerable fractionation of genetic and environmental influences across autistic trait domains, in line with previous findings.

View graph of relations

© 2018 King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS | England | United Kingdom | Tel +44 (0)20 7836 5454