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Autism is the most highly heritable of all mental disorders, exceeding that of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Twin and family studies have convincingly demonstrated that genetic factors play a role in disorders throughout the autism spectrum (for a review, see Lauritsen and Ewald 2001). Recent studies have shown that the concordance rates in monozygotic twins is between 60% and 90%. In those instances where the twins were discordant for autism, the nonautistic twin often had impairments in communication and social interaction as well as stereotypic behaviors, though not at a sufficient level to merit a diagnosis. The likelihood that the parents of a child with autism will have another child with autism has been estimated at 3%–5%. This is likely to be an underestimation, since parents may elect to have no more children after the autistic child is diagnosed.

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