Autistic traits are characterized by social and communication problems, restricted, repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests and activities. The relation between autistic traits and personality characteristics is largely unknown. This study focused on the relation between five specific autistic traits measured with the abridged version of the Autism Spectrum Quotient ("social problems," "preference for routine," "attentional switching difficulties," "imagination impairments," "fascination for numbers and patterns") and Experience Seeking (ES) in a general population sample of adults, and subsequently investigated the genetic and environmental etiology between these traits. Self-reported data on autistic traits and ES were collected in a population sample (n = 559) of unrelated individuals, and in a population based family sample of twins and siblings (n = 560). Phenotypic, genetic and environmental associations between traits were examined in a bivariate model, accounting for sex and age differences. Phenotypically, ES correlated significantly with "preference for routine" and "imagination impairments" in both samples but was unrelated to the other autistic traits. Genetic analyses in the family sample revealed that the association between ES and "preference for routine" and "imagination impairments" could largely be explained by a shared genetic factor (89% and 70%, respectively). Our analyses demonstrated at a phenotypic and genetic level an inverse relationship between ES and specific autistic traits in adults. ES is associated with risk taking behavior such as substance abuse, antisocial behavior and financial problems. Future research could investigate whether autistic traits, in particular strong routine preference and impaired imagination skills, serve as protective factors for such risky behaviors. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Keywords: autism; personality; sensation seeking; substance abuse.
© 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.