Skip to main content
Log in

The Effect of Gestational Age on Symptom Severity in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

  • Original Paper
  • Published:
Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders Aims and scope Submit manuscript


Between 2006 and 2010, two research-validated instruments, Social Communication Questionnaire (SCQ) and Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS) were filled out online by 4,188 mothers of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) children, aged 4–21, as part of voluntary parental participation in a large web-based registry. Univariate and multivariate linear regression analysis (adjusted for child’s sex, ability to verbalize, categorical IQ score, and fetal growth rate) demonstrated significantly higher SCQ and SRS scores for ASD children of both preterm (<37 weeks) and post-term (>42 weeks) gestational age (GA) compared to ASD children of normal GA, thus indicating that both preterm and post-term children manifest increased ASD symptomatology. Normal GA at birth appears to mitigate the severity of autistic social impairment in ASD children.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Fig. 1

Similar content being viewed by others


  • Auyeung, B., Baron-Cohen, S., et al. (2009). Fetal testosterone and autistic traits. British Journal of Psychology, 100(Pt 1), 1–22.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Bauman, M. L. (1996). Brief report: Neuroanatomic observations of the brain in pervasive developmental disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 26(2), 199–203.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Bauman, M. L., & Kemper, T. L. (2005). Neuroanatomic observations of the brain in autism: A review and future directions. International Journal of Developmental Neuroscience, 23(2–3), 183–187.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Casanova, M. F., El-Baz, A., et al. (2010). A topographic study of minicolumnar core width by lamina comparison between autistic subjects and controls: Possible minicolumnar disruption due to an anatomical element in-common to multiple laminae. Brain Pathology, 20(2), 451–458.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Charman, T., Baird, G., et al. (2007). Efficacy of three screening instruments in the identification of autistic-spectrum disorders. British Journal of Psychiatry, 191, 554–559.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Constantino, J. N., & Gruber, C. P. (2009). Social responsiveness scale. Western Psychological Services: Los Angeles.

    Google Scholar 

  • Constantino, J. N., Przybeck, T., et al. (2000). Reciprocal social behavior in children with and without pervasive developmental disorders. Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, 21(1), 2–11.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Ehrenstein, V., Pedersen, L., et al. (2007). Postterm delivery and risk for epilepsy in childhood. Pediatrics, 119(3), e554–e561.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Foster, B., & King, B. H. (2003). Asperger syndrome: To be or not to be? Current Opinion in Pediatrics, 15(5), 491–494.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Glasson, E. J., Bower, C., et al. (2004). Perinatal factors and the development of autism: A population study. Archives of General Psychiatry, 61(6), 618–627.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Hallmayer, J., Cleveland, S., et al. (2011). Genetic heritability and shared environmental factors among twin pairs with autism. Archives of General Psychiatry, 68(11), 1095–1102.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Hultman, C. M., Sparen, P., et al. (2002). Perinatal risk factors for infantile autism. Epidemiology, 13(4), 417–423.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Johnson, S., Hollis, C., et al. (2010). Autism spectrum disorders in extremely preterm children. Journal of Pediatrics, 156(4), 525–531. e522.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Lichtenstein, P., Carlstrom, E., et al. (2010). The genetics of autism spectrum disorders and related neuropsychiatric disorders in childhood. American Journal of Psychiatry, 167(11), 1357–1363.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Limperopoulos, C., Bassan, H., et al. (2008). Positive screening for autism in ex-preterm infants: Prevalence and risk factors. Pediatrics, 121(4), 758–765.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Lucia, V. C., Luo, Z., et al. (2006). Reports of birthweight by adolescents and their mothers: Comparing accuracy and identifying correlates. Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology, 20(6), 520–527.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Mandell, D. S., Novak, M. M., et al. (2005). Factors associated with age of diagnosis among children with autism spectrum disorders. Pediatrics, 116(6), 1480–1486.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Olesen, A. W., Westergaard, J. G., et al. (2003). Perinatal and maternal complications related to postterm delivery: A national register-based study, 1978–1993. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 189(1), 222–227.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Pinto-Martin, J. A., Levy, S. E., et al. (2011). Prevalence of autism spectrum disorder in adolescents born weighing <2000 grams. Pediatrics, 128(5), 883–891.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Rosenberg, R. E., Law, J. K., et al. (2009). Characteristics and concordance of autism spectrum disorders among 277 twin pairs. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 163(10), 907–914.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Rutter, M., Bailey, A., et al. (2010). The social communication questionnaire. Western Psychological Services: Los Angeles.

    Google Scholar 

  • Szatmari, P., Liu, X. Q., et al. (2011). Sex differences in repetitive stereotyped behaviors in autism: Implications for genetic liability. American Journal of Medical Genetics Part B: Neuropsychiatric Genetics, 159B(1), 5–12.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Whitaker, A. H., Van Rossem, R., et al. (1997). Psychiatric outcomes in low-birth-weight children at age 6 years: relation to neonatal cranial ultrasound abnormalities. Archives of General Psychiatry, 54(9), 847–856.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

Download references


This project was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) T32 Training Program in Perinatal Epidemiology at Michigan State University (MSU), grant number 2T32HD046377. We would like to thank the Interactive Autism Network (IAN) of the Kennedy Krieger Institute, Baltimore, MD for providing us with the data for this project.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Tammy Z. Movsas.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Movsas, T.Z., Paneth, N. The Effect of Gestational Age on Symptom Severity in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. J Autism Dev Disord 42, 2431–2439 (2012).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: