Study on Autism Spectrum Disorders in Families

Jul 18
Kelly Baldwin, Online Content Manager
Dungarvin National Central Office
IDDRC Washington University Logo

Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis are trying to measure the transmission of autistic traits through multiple generations of families with an individual affected by autism spectrum disorders.

The Second Generation Survey Project is led by Dr. John N. Constantino; Blanche F. Littleson, Director of the Division of Child Psychiatry; and co-investigator Dr. Natasha Marrus, Assistant Professor of Child Psychiatry. This research is focused on understanding how risk for autism is transmitted in families. The project leaders hope that this will promote identification of children who would benefit from intervention and improve support to affected families. They are recruiting family members who are a biological parent of a child with ASD and are now grandparents. The risk that autism will affect grandchildren in such families is unknown, and the project’s brief survey is designed to gain new knowledge about the level of risk, and which second generation offspring might benefit from early intervention.

The purpose of this family study is to measure the transmission of autistic traits within multiple generations of families with an individual affected with autism spectrum disorders. Families will be recruited from several sources in the general community as well as participants in the Interactive Autistic Network, which currently contains over 20,000 families having at least one member with an ASD. Through recruitment of grandparents of this newest generation of children, this project will obtain information about this latest generation’s early social development as well as the social function of family members. This information will allow the study to investigate important questions about how autism spectrum disorders runs in families, including in siblings of individuals with ASD, and how autistic traits arise in early development. Such findings will inform appropriate genetic counseling of family members of individuals with ASD as well as provide information on when to best intervene for children who show signs of autism.

If you are a parent of a biological child with autism and you also have at least one grandchild (who may or may not be diagnosed with autism), then you can help the research team by taking the brief survey (below). Every potential family counts toward this study’s success.

Get Started with the Grandparent Survey

At the end of the survey, you will have the option to leave your contact information for the research team to follow up with you via phone to complete additional questionnaires which will further enhance their research. Participants who consent to provide additional information over the phone and via mailed questionnaires will be compensated for their time. If you have any questions about this research, you can contact Daniel Gray (study coordinator) at Washington University (phone: 314.362.3734, e-mail:

Download and Share a Flier on the Grandparent Study

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