Investigating associations between birth order and autism diagnostic phenotypes – video abstract

Matt Kempen
Marketing Manager for ACAMH

Posted on

Video abstract from Gail A. Alvares on her JCPP paper ‘Investigating associations between birth order and autism diagnostic phenotypes’.

Authors; Gail A. Alvares, Melissa K. Licari, Paul G. Stevenson, Keely Bebbington, Matthew N. Cooper, Emma J. Glasson, Diana W. Tan, Mirko Uljarević, Kandice J. Varcin, John Wray, Andrew J. O. Whitehouse
First published: 08 November 2020

Gail Alvares
Gail Alvares

Gail’s research has primarily involved coordination of Australia’s first national biobank for autism (the Australian Autism Biobank), currently the largest detailed biological and clinical repository of information about autism in Australia. She has also developed and tested an attention training game for children with autism. In 2016, Gail was named a “Top 5 Under 40” scientist by ABC’s Radio National.


So hello everyone my name is Gail Alvarez and i’m a researcher in the clinic Kids Autism Research Group at the Telethon Kids institute here in Perth Australia.

So today i’m going to be talking to you about a study that we recently published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry looking at the relationship between birth order and autism.

So the order in which you’re born is a really interesting characteristic that actually is related to a range of different social and educational IQ type outcomes but really interestingly there’s research that shows that the likelihood for an autism diagnosis may also be related to birth order with increased likelihood in first-born and later-born children as well.

What we wanted to do in this study is really look at what is the relationship between birth order and family size with clinical phenotype or characteristics for children on the autism spectrum. So to do this we looked at a large sample of children taking data taken from the Western Australian Autism Registry so this is a very large diagnostic registry that’s been established here in Western Australia in 1999.

In this study we looked at about five and a half thousand children and the main takeaway finding from this research was really that compared to first-born children later-born children had decreased functional abilities decreased IQ and increased likelihood of intellectual disability we also found interestingly that only children so children who didn’t have siblings at the time of diagnosis also had decreased functional abilities and decreased IQ relative to first-born children.

So these studies are really interesting they tell us that a child’s family characteristics or birth order may have some relationship to their clinical phenotype or characteristics at the time of autism diagnosis and the reasons for this might be a little bit complex so they might be related to sociological differences or environmental differences in that family at the time of that child getting a diagnosis or it might be related to biological differences during pregnancy in first born first pregnancies compared to later pregnancies

However, the really important implication for this research is that it shows us that functional assessments at the time of diagnosis are really important, children’s functional abilities can vary really widely when we’re doing a diagnosis and it’s really important for us to do those functional assessments so that we can better understand how to provide those supports and those essential daily living communication and socialization skills that can help that child to achieve their full potential.

Now if you’re really interested in this research follow the links in the video or in the video description. Thanks.

Add a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *