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    • What is the male-to-female ratio in autism spectrum disorder? A systematic review and meta-analysis

Publication date:
  • 2017
    • 2017, Vol. 56(6), pp. 466-474
  • OBJECTIVE: To derive the first systematically calculated estimate of the relative proportion of boys and girls with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) through a meta-analysis of prevalence studies conducted since the introduction of the DSM-IV and the International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision. METHOD: Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines were followed. The Medline, Embase, and PsycINFO databases were searched, and study quality was rated using a risk-of-bias tool. Random-effects meta-analysis was used. The pooled outcome measurement was the male-to-female odds ratio (MFOR), namely the odds of being male in the group with ASD compared with the non-ASD group. In effect, this is the ASD male-to-female ratio, controlling for the male-to-female ratio among participants without ASD. RESULTS: Fifty-four studies were analysed, with 13,784,284 participants, of whom 53,712 had ASD (43,972 boys and 9,740 girls). The overall pooled MFOR was 4.20 (95% CI 3.84-4.60), but there was very substantial between-study variability (I2 = 90.9%). High-quality studies had a lower MFOR (3.32; 95% CI 2.88-3.84). Studies that screened the general population to identify participants regardless of whether they already had an ASD diagnosis showed a lower MFOR (3.25; 95% CI 2.93-3.62) than studies that only ascertained participants with a pre-existing ASD diagnosis (MFOR 4.56; 95% CI 4.10-5.07). CONCLUSION: Of children meeting criteria for ASD, the true male-to-female ratio is not 4:1, as is often assumed; rather, it is closer to 3:1. There appears to be a diagnostic gender bias, meaning that girls who meet criteria for ASD are at disproportionate risk of not receiving a clinical diagnosis.
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Peer Review:
    • Not held
Download from:
    • Will Mandy, PhD, Research Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology, UCL, Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT; email: w.mandy@ucl.ac.uk