B4416 - Pathways between neurodevelopmental conditions and Health A longitudinal examination of risk and protective factors - 18/09/2023

B number: 
Principal applicant name: 
Kirsty Samantha Lee | University of Warwick (United Kingdom)
Ahmad Valikhani, Dr John Galvin, Prof Dieter Wolke , Dr Ayten Bilgin
Title of project: 
Pathways between neurodevelopmental conditions and Health: A longitudinal examination of risk and protective factors
Proposal summary: 

Autism spectrum condition is a lifelong neurodevelopmental condition recognised by its heterogeneous phenotypic manifestations. This heterogeneity not only makes the condition challenging to diagnose but may also lead to misdiagnoses of psychiatric or medical disorders, which can decrease quality of life and wellbeing. Research has shown that psychiatric and medical conditions are highly comorbid with autism, but it is not known if this is due to autism per se (i.e., autism-related genetic mutations and autistic traits) or the effects of environmental risk factors or protective factors. Environmental risk factors (e.g., traumatic experiences, intimate partner violence, bullying, stressful life events) commonly contribute to poor mental and physical health in the general population, but there has been less investigation into their role among autistic individuals. It is also unknown whether protective factors in childhood and adolescence (e.g., positive relationships with parents, school enjoyment, social support) affect the association between autism and psychiatric or medical comorbidities in adolescence and adulthood. In addition to examining these association in the general population who have an autism diagnosis, we will also consider autistic traits (i.e., the broader autism phenotype; BAP) and traits of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which is highly comorbid in the autistic community. As girls and women were historically neglected in neurodevelopmental research, we will also examine sex differences. The research could have clinical and policy implications for promoting health and wellbeing in the broad autism population, better recognition and earlier diagnosis, especially among girls, and the prevention/promotion of risky/protective environments.

Impact of research: 
The findings may contribute to our understanding of how phenotypic presentations of neurodevelopmental conditions relate to psychiatric, medical and social outcomes This project may identify the underlying mechanisms in the environment that amenable to intervention. Additionally, as the role of sex differences in autism have historically been ignored, our research may inform sex-specific programmes in the provision of healthcare for autistic individuals, including earlier diagnosis. In sum, the findings may have widespread clinical, policy, and research implications.
Date proposal received: 
Wednesday, 13 September, 2023
Date proposal approved: 
Monday, 18 September, 2023
Mental health - Psychology, Psychiatry, Cognition, Statistical methods, Childhood - childcare, childhood adversity, Development, Environment - enviromental exposure, pollution, Sex differences, Autism, ADHD, Health, Mechanisms