Macrocephaly in children and adults with autism

Janet E. Lainhart, Joseph Piven, Maryann Wzorek, Rebecca Landa, Susan L. Santangelo, Hilary Coon, Susan E. Folstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

330 Scopus citations


Objective: To explore the frequency and onset of macrocephaly in autism and its relationship to clinical features. Method: Head circumferences at birth, during early childhood, and at the time of examination were studied in a community-based sample of autistic children and adults. The authors investigated whether head circumference at the time of examination was associated with clinical features. Results: Fourteen percent of the autistic subjects had macrocephaly: 11% of males and 24% of females. In most, the macrocephaly was not present at birth; in some it became apparent in early and middle childhood as a result of increased rate of head growth. A small relationship was noted between head circumference percentile and less severe core features of autism. Neither macrocephaly nor head circumference percentile was associated with nonverbal IQ, verbal status, seizure disorder, neurological soft signs, or minor physical anomalies in the autistic subjects. Conclusion: Macrocephaly is common in autism and usually is not present at birth. Rates of head growth may be abnormal in early and middle childhood in some (37%) children with autism. Macrocephaly does not define a homogeneous subgroup of autistic individuals according to clinical features.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)282-290
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • autism
  • head circumference
  • macrocephaly

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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