Hypermasculinised facial morphology in boys and girls with Autism Spectrum Disorder and its association with symptomatology

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Elevated prenatal testosterone exposure has been associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and facial masculinity. By employing three-dimensional (3D) photogrammetry, the current study investigated whether prepubescent boys and girls with ASD present increased facial masculinity compared to typically-developing controls. There were two phases to this research. 3D facial images were obtained from a normative sample of 48 boys and 53 girls (3.01-12.44 years old) to determine typical facial masculinity/femininity. The sexually dimorphic features were used to create a continuous 'gender score', indexing degree of facial masculinity. Gender scores based on 3D facial images were then compared for 54 autistic and 54 control boys (3.01-12.52 years old), and also for 20 autistic and 60 control girls (4.24-11.78 years). For each sex, increased facial masculinity was observed in the ASD group relative to control group. Further analyses revealed that increased facial masculinity in the ASD group correlated with more social-communication difficulties based on the Social Affect score derived from the Autism Diagnostic Observation Scale-Generic (ADOS-G). There was no association between facial masculinity and the derived Restricted and Repetitive Behaviours score. This is the first study demonstrating facial hypermasculinisation in ASD and its relationship to social-communication difficulties in prepubescent children.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9348
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 24 Aug 2017


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