Aim: The aim of this study was to determine whether gastrointestinal problems in early childhood relate to autistic-like traits in a general population sample.
Method: The parents of 804 children (442 females; 362 males) reported at 1-, 2-, 3-, and 5-year follow-ups whether their child had been taken to a hospital, general practitioner, or health clinic for any of five gastrointestinal symptoms: (1) constipation; (2) diarrhoea; (3) abdominal bloating, discomfort, or irritability; (4) gastro-oesophageal reflux or vomiting; and (5) feeding issues or food selectivity. Parents also reported whether their child had received the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccination. Autistic-like traits were measured when the children had reached early adulthood (mean age 19 y 7 mo; SD 0.63 y) using a self-report questionnaire, the Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ).
Results: There was no statistically significant difference in AQ scores between those who had (n=133) and those who had not (n=671) experienced early gastrointestinal symptoms. χ(2) analyses revealed that the children with early gastrointestinal problems were no more likely to be represented in the upper quintile of scores on any of the AQ scales. The measles, mumps, and rubella vaccination was unrelated to gastrointestinal symptoms or AQ scores.
Interpretation: Parent-reported gastrointestinal problems in early childhood are unrelated to self-reported autistic-like traits in the general population.
© The Authors. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology © 2011 Mac Keith Press.