Comorbidity in Autism Spectrum Disorder

GEL team members working on the project: Dr Angelica Ronald, Dr Mark Taylor

Collaborators include: Prof Tony Charman, Dr Victoria Hallett, Dr Elise Robinson, Dr Aline Scherff

Funded by the ESRC, MRC, and Bloomsbury Colleges Consortium


Research has indicated that upwards of 70% of individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may be at risk for developing an additional psychiatric or neurodevelopmental disorder in addition to the symptoms of ASD, producing additional functional impairment (e.g. Simonoff et al., 2008). In particular, individuals with ASD are at a greater risk of developing anxiety disorders, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, and oppositional defiant/conduct disorder. However, research on the causes of comorbidity in ASD is lacking. This project aims to explore the genetic and environmental influences on the overlap between autistic traits and traits of other psychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders.

The Project

Aline Scherff is examining the overlap between autistic and internalising traits in adolescence in an attempt to further understand comorbidity of ASD with anxiety disorders, while Mark Taylor is studying associations of autistic traits and traits characteristic of ADHD in early adolescence. Both are applying twin model fitting to data from the Twins Early Development Study in order to estimate the extent to which the overlap between these traits is due to shared genetic and environmental factors.


Taylor, M. J., Charman, T. & Ronald, A. (in press). Where are the strongest associations between autistic traits and traits of ADHD? Evidence from a community-based twin study. European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.


Taylor, M.J., Charman, T., Robinson, E.B., Hayiou-Thomas, M.E., Happé, F., Dale, P.S., & Ronald, A. (2014). Language and traits of autism spectrum conditions: Evidence of limited phenotypic and etiological overlap. American Journal of Medical Genetics Part B: Neuropsychiatric Genetics, 165B, 7, 587-595.


Scherff, A., Taylor, M., Eley, T.C., Happe, F., Charman, T., & Ronald, A. (2014). What causes internalising traits and autistic traits to co-occur in adolescence? A community-based twin study. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 42, 601-610.


Taylor, M.J., Charman, T., Robinson, E.B., Plomin, R., Happe, F., Asherson, P., & Ronald, A. (2013). Developmental associations between traits of autism spectrum disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: A genetically-informative, longitudinal twin study. Psychological Medicine, 43, 8, 1735-1746.

Genes Environment Lifespan Laboratory