Background: Recent studies have indicated that quantitative autistic traits (QATs) of parents reflect inherited liabilities that may index background genetic risk for clinical autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in their offspring. Moreover, preferential mating for QATs has been observed as a potential factor in concentrating autistic liabilities in some families across generations. Heretofore, intergenerational studies of QATs have focused almost exclusively on Caucasian populations - the present study explored these phenomena in a well-characterized Hispanic population. Methods: The present study examined QAT scores in siblings and parents of 83 Hispanic probands meeting research diagnostic criteria for ASD, and 64 non-ASD controls, using the Social Responsiveness Scale-2 (SRS-2). Ancestry of the probands was characterized by genotype, using information from 541,929 single nucleotide polymorphic markers. Results: In families of Hispanic children with an ASD diagnosis, the pattern of quantitative trait correlations observed between ASD-affected children and their first-degree relatives (ICCs on the order of 0.20), between unaffected first-degree relatives in ASD-affected families (sibling/mother ICC = 0.36; sibling/father ICC = 0.53), and between spouses (mother/father ICC = 0.48) were in keeping with the influence of transmitted background genetic risk and strong preferential mating for variation in quantitative autistic trait burden. Results from analysis of ancestry-informative genetic markers among probands in this sample were consistent with that from other Hispanic populations. Conclusions: Quantitative autistic traits represent measurable indices of inherited liability to ASD in Hispanic families. The accumulation of autistic traits occurs within generations, between spouses, and across generations, among Hispanic families affected by ASD. The occurrence of preferential mating for QATs - the magnitude of which may vary across cultures - constitutes a mechanism by which background genetic liability for ASD can accumulate in a given family in successive generations.
- Assortative mating
- Social Responsiveness Scale