Identifying factors linked to autism traits in the general population may improve our understanding of the mechanisms underlying divergent neurodevelopment. In this study we assess whether factors increasing the likelihood of childhood autism are related to early autistic trait emergence, or if other exposures are more important. We used data from 536 toddlers from London (UK), collected at birth (gestational age at birth, sex, maternal body mass index, age, parental education, parental language, parental history of neurodevelopmental conditions) and at 18 months (parents cohabiting, measures of socio-economic deprivation, measures of maternal parenting style, and a measure of maternal depression). Autism traits were assessed using the Quantitative Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (Q-CHAT) at 18 months. A multivariable model explained 20% of Q-CHAT variance, with four individually significant variables (two measures of parenting style and two measures of socio-economic deprivation). In order to address variable collinearity we used principal component analysis, finding that a component which was positively correlated with Q-CHAT was also correlated to measures of parenting style and socio-economic deprivation. Our results show that parenting style and socio-economic deprivation correlate with the emergence of autism traits at age 18 months as measured with the Q-CHAT in a community sample.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8393
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Early online date10 Apr 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 10 Apr 2024


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