Objective: The study examined the genetic structure of deficits in reciprocal social behavior in an epidemiologic sample of male twins.
Method: Parents of 232 pairs of 7-15-year-old male twins completed the Social Reciprocity Scale to provide data on their children's reciprocal social behavior. Scale scores were analyzed by using structural equation modeling.
Results: Intraclass (twin-twin) correlations for scores on the Social Reciprocity Scale were 0.73 for monozygotic twins (N=98 pairs) and 0.37 for dizygotic twins (N=134 pairs). The best fitting model of causal influences on reciprocal social behavior incorporated additive genetic influences and unique environmental influences.
Conclusions: For school-age boys in the general population, reciprocal social behavior is highly heritable, with a genetic structure similar to that reported for autism in clinical samples. Continuous measures of reciprocal social behavior may be useful for characterizing the broader autism phenotype and may enhance the statistical power of genetic studies of autism.