Greater Incidence of Psychiatric and Neurodevelopmental Disorders in Siblings of Autism Patients Interview with:

Elina Jokiranta-Olkoniemi MA Psychologist, Researcher Department of Child Psychiatry University of Turku and Turku University Hospital Finland

Elina Jokiranta Olkoniemi

Elina Jokiranta-Olkoniemi MA
Psychologist, Researcher
Department of Child Psychiatry
University of Turku and Turku University Hospital
Finland What is the background for this study?
Response: Prior studies have demonstrated that schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and autism spectrum disorders (ASD) cluster in the families. Little is known about the clustering of other psychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders among siblings of probands with ASD. It is well known that ASD frequently co-occur with a range of other disorders such as intellectual disability (ID), attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), behavioral disturbances and anxiety disorders. Therefore, it was plausible to hypothesize that siblings of probands with ASD could have an increased risk for several psychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders.

The data is based on several nationwide registers from Finland. We examined the whole spectrum of psychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders diagnosed among the siblings. Data included over 3500 probands with autism spectrum disorders who had over 6000 siblings. They were compared to nearly 12 000 controls with over 22 000 siblings. Siblings in this cohort ranged from 4 to 32 years old. What are the main findings?

Response: The main finding of the study is that the siblings of the probands with autism spectrum disorders were diagnosed more often with all psychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders investigated except substance abuse disorders as compared to siblings of controls. Especially childhood onset disorders, including ASD, ADHD, ID, childhood emotional disorders, learning and coordination disorders, conduct and oppositional disorders and tic disorders were more frequent among siblings of ASD probands. What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Response: It is important to notice that these findings were observed in the population level. Therefore, these findings cannot be applied to determine the risk for disorders of a single child. However, clinicians working with the families of individuals with  autism spectrum disorders should pay particular attention to the siblings of proband for early recognition and rehabilitation. For example, it has been shown that early recognition and diagnosis of ASD and fast referral to rehabilitation are important predictors of the prognosis of  autism spectrum disorders. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: There was an unequal time of follow-up of siblings, with the youngest siblings being followed only for four years. Future research on this topic should have a longer period of follow-up for the whole cohort. In addition, it would be important to evaluate the specific environmental factors associated with these disorders together with the genetic studies searching for shared genotypes. Thank you for your contribution to the community.


Jokiranta-Olkoniemi E, Cheslack-Postava K, Sucksdorff D, et al. Risk of Psychiatric and Neurodevelopmental Disorders Among Siblings of Probands With Autism Spectrum Disorders. JAMA Psychiatry. Published online May 04, 2016. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2016.0495.

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.

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Last Updated on May 4, 2016 by Marie Benz MD FAAD