Recurrence risk for autism spectrum disorders: A baby siblings research consortium study

Sally Ozonoff, Gregory S. Young, Alice Carter, Daniel Messinger, Nurit Yirmiya, Lonnie Zwaigenbaum, Susan Bryson, Leslie J. Carver, John N. Constantino, Karen Dobkins, Ted Hutman, Jana M. Iverson, Rebecca Landa, Sally J. Rogers, Marian Sigman, Wendy L. Stone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

975 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: The recurrence risk of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) is estimated to be between 3% and 10%, but previous research was limited by small sample sizes and biases related to ascertainment, reporting, and stoppage factors. This study used prospective methods to obtain an updated estimate of sibling recurrence risk for ASD. METHODS: A prospective longitudinal study of infants at risk for ASD was conducted by a multisite international network, the Baby Siblings Research Consortium. Infants (n = 664) with an older biological sibling with ASD were followed from early in life to 36 months, when they were classified as having or not having ASD. An ASD classification required surpassing the cutoff of the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule and receiving a clinical diagnosis from an expert clinician. RESULTS: A total of 18.7% of the infants developed ASD. Infant gender and the presence of >1 older affected sibling were significant predictors of ASD outcome, and there was an almost threefold increase in risk for male subjects and an additional twofold increase in risk if there was >1 older affected sibling. The age of the infant at study enrollment, the gender and functioning level of the infant's older sibling, and other demographic factors did not predict ASD outcome. CONCLUSIONS: The sibling recurrence rate of ASD is higher than suggested by previous estimates. The size of the current sample and prospective nature of data collection minimized many limitations of previous studies of sibling recurrence. Clinical implications, including genetic counseling, are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e488-e495
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2011


  • Autism
  • Recurrence
  • Sibling risk


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