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Sex/gender differences and autism: setting the scene for future research

Lai, M.-C., Lombardo, M. V., Auyeung, B., Chakrabarti, B. and Baron-Cohen, S. (2014) Sex/gender differences and autism: setting the scene for future research. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 54 (1). pp. 11-24. ISSN 0890-8567

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1016/j.jaac.2014.10.003

Abstract/Summary

Objective The relationship between sex/gender differences and autism has attracted a variety of research ranging from clinical, neurobiological to etiological, stimulated by the male bias in autism prevalence. Findings are complex and do not always relate to each other in a straightforward manner. Distinct but interlinked questions on the relationship between sex/gender differences and autism remain under addressed. To better understand the implications from existing research and to help design future studies, we propose a four-level conceptual framework to clarify the embedded themes. Method We searched PubMed for publications before September 2014 using search terms “‘sex OR gender OR females’ AND autism.” 1,906 citations were screened for relevance, along with publications identified via additional literature reviews, resulting in 329 reports that were reviewed. Results Level 1 “Nosological and diagnostic challenges” concerns the question “How should autism be defined and diagnosed in males and females?” Level 2 “Sex/gender-independent and sex/gender-dependent characteristics” addresses the question “What are the similarities and differences between males and females with autism?” Level 3 “General models of etiology: liability and threshold” asks the question “How is the liability for developing autism linked to sex/gender?” Level 4 “Specific etiological-developmental mechanisms” focuses on the question “What etiological-developmental mechanisms of autism are implicated by sex/gender and/or sexual/gender differentiation?” Conclusions Using this conceptual framework, findings can be more clearly summarized, and the implications of the links between findings from different levels can become clearer. Based on this four-level framework, we suggest future research directions, methodology, and specific topics in sex/gender differences and autism.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Interdisciplinary centres and themes > Centre for Integrative Neuroscience and Neurodynamics (CINN)
Interdisciplinary centres and themes > ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorders) Research Network
Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Department of Psychology
Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Neuroscience
Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Psychopathology and Affective Neuroscience
ID Code:37879
Uncontrolled Keywords:autism; sex; gender; nosology; etiology
Publisher:Elsevier

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