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The broad autism phenotype commonly refers to sub-clinical levels of autistic-like behaviour and cognition presented in biological relatives of autistic people. In a recent study, we reported findings suggesting that the broad autism phenotype may also be expressed in facial morphology, specifically increased facial masculinity. Increased facial masculinity has been reported among autistic children, as well as their non-autistic siblings. The present study builds on our previous findings by investigating the presence of increased facial masculinity among non-autistic parents of autistic children. Using a previously established method, a 'facial masculinity score' and several facial distances were calculated for each three-dimensional facial image of 192 parents of autistic children (58 males, 134 females) and 163 age-matched parents of non-autistic children (50 males, 113 females). While controlling for facial area and age, significantly higher masculinity scores and larger (more masculine) facial distances were observed in parents of autistic children relative to the comparison group, with effect sizes ranging from small to medium (0.16 ≤ d ≤ .41), regardless of sex. These findings add to an accumulating evidence base that the broad autism phenotype is expressed in physical characteristics and suggest that both maternal and paternal pathways are implicated in masculinized facial morphology.
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