Why do more boys than girls get autism?

More boys than girls suffer from autism. Recently, scientists discovered one of the reasons.

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It has been known for several years that boys are four times more likely to develop autism, but whether this trend is rooted in genes or in biological differences between the sexes was unknown.

Therefore, Elise Robinson from Harvard University set out to investigate whether autism spectrum disorders could be due to gender differences. She tried to determine if there was a factor that would protect girls from this developmental disorder.

During her research, she and her team analyzed data on twins from the UK and Sweden. She assumed that if there are actually features that protect girls from the autism spectrum disorder (ASD), their families should have a higher risk of transmitting this disease and this risk will be passed on to every child, regardless of gender. In other words: girls have a higher threshold of some kind of blockade for the development of autism. They also have to deal with a greater load of factors so that their nervous system can be disturbed.

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The risk of autism was determined by Robinson based on the level of symptoms of this disorder in siblings, parents and grandparents. She found that in families at high risk of developing developmental and psychiatric disorders, even healthy members of those families tend to have mild symptoms that do not qualify for a specific diagnosis.

Almost 4,000 British twins and 6,000 Swedish twins participated in the study. Only fraternal twins were studied, of which only one had an autism spectrum disorder.

Studies have shown that if one of the twins had 10 percent autistic traits, the risk of passing them on to a similar level to a twin would be 37 percent higher than that of a boy. This means that girls with autism usually come from families with a higher risk of the autism spectrum. And there are fewer of these.

The study was designed to test whether families of girls on the autism spectrum could actually be at higher risk of ASD, and was not designed to test the factors that protect girls. But the study's insight has the potential to influence the treatment of autistic children of both sexes. Based on previous research, scientists found that genes, more than environmental traits, are responsible for fewer cases in girls.

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