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No relationship between prenatal or early postnatal androgen exposure and autistic traits: evidence using anogenital distance and penile length measurements at birth and 3 months of age.

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Kung, Karson TF 
Thankamony, Ajay 
Ong, Ken KL 
Acerini, Carlo L 
Dunger, David B 


BACKGROUND: Autism is more prevalent in males than in females. Hypotheses related to the extreme male brain theory of autism suggest that heightened androgen exposure during early development contributes to autistic traits. Whilst prior research focused mostly on the prenatal period, the current study tests the influences of androgen exposure during both the prenatal and the early postnatal periods on autistic traits during childhood. METHODS: Anthropometric measures that are putative biomarkers of early androgen exposure were employed. Anogenital distance (AGD) was measured at birth and 3 months of age in boys and girls. Penile length at birth and 3 months of age was also measured in boys. When the children were 9-13 years old, a parent-reported questionnaire (the 10-item children's version of the Autism Spectrum Quotient; AQ-10 Child) was used to assess autistic traits in 97 boys and 110 girls. RESULTS: There were no significant associations between any of the AGD or penile length measures and scores on the AQ-10 Child in boys, girls or the entire sample. CONCLUSIONS: The current study provides the first test of whether early measurements of AGD and/or penile length predict subsequent autistic traits. The current findings do not support a relationship between prenatal or early postnatal androgen exposure and autistic traits. The current study augments prior research showing no consistent relationship between early androgen exposure and autistic traits.



Anogenital distance, autism, autistic traits, extreme male brain, gender, penile length, Androgens, Autistic Disorder, Child, Female, Humans, Infant, Newborn, Male, Pregnancy, Surveys and Questionnaires

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J Child Psychol Psychiatry

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Medical Research Council (G1001995)
MRC Epidemiology Unit (7500001180)
Mothercare Charitable Foundation (unknown)
Medical Research Council (MC_UU_12015/2)
MRC (MC_UU_00006/2)
Medical Research Council (G1001995/1)
This work was funded by the Medical Research Council (grant numbers G1001995, 7500001180); European Union Framework 5 (grant number QLK4-1999-01422); the Mothercare Charitable Foundation (grant number RG54608); Newlife—The Charity for Disabled Children (grant number 07/20); the World Cancer Research Fund International (grant number 2004/03); and the National Institute for Health Research Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre.