Sex differences in neurodevelopmental trajectories in children with different levels of autistic traits

Tomoko Nishimura, Nagahide Takahashi, Akemi Okumura, Taeko Harada, Toshiki Iwabuchi, Chikako Nakayasu, Mohammad Shafiur Rahman, Satoshi Uchiyama, Manabu Wakuta, Yoko Nomura, Nori Takei, Atsushi Senju, Kenji J. Tsuchiya

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Aim: Little is known about early manifestations of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in females, including those who may be overlooked by the current diagnostic criteria. We longitudinally explored sex differences in the trajectories of cognitive and motor functions and adaptive behaviors in children with different levels of autistic traits. Methods: The participants were 824 children from the Hamamatsu Birth Cohort for Mothers and Children (HBC Study), Japan, who were classified into three autistic trait groups—low, moderate, and high—based on the Social Responsiveness Scale–Second Edition. Cognitive and motor functions were measured at seven time-points from 0.5 to 3.5 years of age using the Mullen Scales of Early Learning. Adaptive behaviors were measured at five time-points from 2.7 to 9 years of age using the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales–Second Edition. Trajectories were depicted using latent growth curve modeling. Results: Sex-specific trajectories were observed in the high-autistic-trait group, with only males showing a temporary decline in expressive language around the age of 2 years and a slight improvement thereafter. They also showed a slight improvement around 3 years in the adaptive behavior communication domain but a gradual downward trend later. Females in the high-autistic-trait group showed no distinct manifestation before the age of 3 years but showed a downward trend after 3.5 years in the adaptive behavior communication domain. Conclusion: Females and males with higher autistic traits than their same-sex peers, independent of clinical diagnosis, may have different phenotypes in certain neurodevelopmental domains during infancy and early childhood.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)282-289
Number of pages8
JournalPsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • autism spectrum disorder
  • child development
  • communication
  • language development
  • sex characteristics


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