Original Paper

Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 44, Issue 6, pp 1414-1424

First online:

Joint Attention Initiation With and Without Positive Affect: Risk Group Differences and Associations with ASD Symptoms

  • Devon N. GangiAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Miami Email author 
  • , Lisa V. IbañezAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Washington Autism Center
  • , Daniel S. MessingerAffiliated withDepartments of Psychology, Pediatrics, and Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Miami

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Infants at risk for autism spectrum disorders (ASD) may have difficulty integrating smiles into initiating joint attention (IJA) bids. A specific IJA pattern, anticipatory smiling, may communicate preexisting positive affect when an infant smiles at an object and then turns the smile toward the social partner. We compared the development of anticipatory smiling at 8, 10, and 12 months in infant siblings of children with ASD (high-risk siblings) and without ASD (low-risk siblings). High-risk siblings produced less anticipatory smiling than low-risk siblings, suggesting early differences in communicating preexisting positive affect. While early anticipatory smiling distinguished the risk groups, IJA not accompanied by smiling best predicted later severity of ASD-related behavioral characteristics among high-risk siblings. High-risk infants appear to show lower levels of motivation to share positive affect with others. However, facility with initiating joint attention in the absence of a clear index of positive affective motivation appears to be central to the prediction of ASD symptoms.


Anticipatory smiling High-risk siblings Autism spectrum disorders Initiating joint attention