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Almost all genetic risk factors for autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) can be found in the general population, but the effects of that risk are unclear in people not ascertained for neuropsychiatric symptoms. Using several large ASD consortia and population based resources, we find genetic links between ASDs and typical variation in social behavior and adaptive functioning. This finding is evidenced through both inherited and de novo variation, indicating that multiple types of genetic risk for ASDs influence a continuum of behavioral and developmental traits, the severe tail of which can result in an ASD or other neuropsychiatric disorder diagnosis. A continuum model should inform the design and interpretation of studies of neuropsychiatric disease biology.

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