A quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

The Autism Research Review International is quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

Summer, 2017 | Number 3, Volume 31

Kids with ASD have hypermasculine faces

Children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) appear to have more masculine facial features than neurotypical children, a new study reports. 

Diana Weiting Tan and colleagues used a computer algorithm to create a gender scale for a sample of 3-D facial images, ranging from very masculine to very feminine. The researchers then compared the facial features of 54 boys and 20 girls with ASD to the features of 102 neurotypical boys and 113 neurotypical girls, determining each child’s score. All of the children were prepubescent. 

The researchers report, “For each sex, increased facial masculinity was observed in the ASD group relative to [the] control group.” Analyses also revealed that increased facial masculinity in the ASD group correlated with the presence of more social and communication difficulties. 

Previous research by the same group found an association between a more masculine facial profile and increased exposure to prenatal testosterone. The researchers conclude that while evidence for the association between ASD and prenatal testosterone exposure is mixed, their findings provide further support for the idea that autism may involve “hypermasculinization .”


Citations

“Hypermasculinised facial morphology in boys and girls with autism spectrum disorder and its association with symptomatology,” Diana Weiting Tan, Syed Zulqarnain Gilani, Murray T. Maybery, Ajmal Mian, Anna Hunt, Mark Walters, and Andrew J.O. Whitehouse, Nature Scientific Reports, August 24, 2017 (free online). Address: Diana Weiting Tan, Neurocognitive Development Unit, School of Psychological Science, University of Western Australia, Perth, 6009, Western Australia, Australia. 

—and— 

“Computer algorithm links facial masculinity to autism,” news release, University of Western Australia, August 25, 2017.