A Review of Gene–Environment Correlations and Their Implications for Autism: A Conceptual Model

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Abstract

A conceptual model is proposed that explains how gene–environment correlations and the multiplier effect function in the context of social development in individuals with autism. The review discusses the current state of autism genetic research, including its challenges, such as the genetic and phenotypic heterogeneity of the disorder, and its limitations, such as the lack of interdisciplinary work between geneticists and social scientists. We discuss literature on gene–environment correlations in the context of social development and draw implications for individuals with autism. The review expands upon genes, behaviors, types of environmental exposure, and exogenous variables relevant to social development in individuals on the autism spectrum, and explains these factors in the context of the conceptual model to provide a more in-depth understanding of how the effects of certain genetic variants can be multiplied by the environment to cause largely phenotypic individual differences. Using the knowledge gathered from gene–environment correlations and the multiplier effect, we outline novel intervention directions and implications.

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