Engineers are at greater risk of having autistic children and grandchildren than people in any other job, according to a new study.
Autism, a neurological disorder affecting communication, social relationships and general comprehension, is now thought to be genetically linked, though the exact cause is unknown. Researchers at Cambridge University predicted that autistic children would be more likely to have parents in occupations that demand a good understanding of objects rather than people, on the principle that autism could be an extreme expression of a parental predisposition.
Questionnaires sent to 1,000 parents of autistic children (plus control groups of parents of children with other disorders and of normal children) supported the theory. Fathers of children with autism were found more than twice as often in engineering than in the control groups, and this was also true of grandfathers of children with autism compared to one of the controls, suggesting that such effects operate across at least two generations.
The findings were published in Autism, a new journal published by Sage Publications and the National Autistic Society.