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Modern Mating

Fascinating speculation in today's Spectator about autism. After recounting the rise in autism in the past twenty years (possibly a ten-fold increase), the writer, Rod Liddle, discounts a few popular theories about why autism has increased, and then tells us that researchers are beginning to speculate that “assortative mating” might be the reason. What is assortative mating? It's “our tendency to choose partners who are phenotypically similar – who share the same idiosyncrasies, if you like – for the purposes of procreation. As opposed, for example, to 'random mating.'”

After presenting various facts about modern mating, Liddle offers these speculations: “If we are marrying and having our children later, and men are much, much more likely to be working alongside women, because of a greater degree of equality within the job market and a decline of those jobs traditionally associated with women, is it not possible that these days our partners would tend to be drawn from the sphere of work rather than, as before, in a rather more random fashion from within our home communities? In other words, are we not more likely to be marrying partners who, through their choice of field of work, are similar to us? And if that is the case, might this rather crude definition of assortative mating be contributing to the rise in cases of children with one or another autism spectrum disorder?”

Interesting stuff.