Characteristics of the broader phenotype in autism: A study of siblings using the children's communication checklist-2



Non-autistic relatives of people with autistic disorder have an increased risk of social and communicative difficulties: this is known as the “broad phenotype.” Better methods for characterizing the broad phenotype are needed to facilitate identification of risk genes for autism. 29 siblings of 20 children with autistic disorder, 13 siblings of 9 children with PDDNOS, and 46 typically developing control children from 26 families were assessed by parental report using the Children's Communication Checklist-2 (CCC-2). Groups were matched on age and IQ and siblings with autism were excluded. Group mean scores on the CCC-2 differed on only one subscale, syntax. However, siblings of children with autism or PDDNOS were over-represented in the tails of the distributions of several scales, and 10 (24%) scored more than 2 SD below the control mean on a total score based on all 10 subscales. Only two of these 10 children scored above threshold on one or more scales of the Autism Diagnostic Interview—Revised (ADI-R). Children with abnormal scores on the CCC-2 total were characterized by low-verbal IQ and their fathers tended to score high on the social and communication scales of the Autism Quotient, a measure of the broad phenotype in adults. The CCC-2 shows promise as a quick screening device for the broad phenotype in non-autistic siblings of children with autism. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.