Original Article

Journal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities

, Volume 22, Issue 4, pp 367-380

First online:

Validity of Comorbid Psychiatric Disorders in Youngsters with Autism Spectrum Disorders

  • Andrea N. WitwerAffiliated withNisonger Center and Department of Psychology, Ohio State University
  • , Luc LecavalierAffiliated withNisonger Center and Department of Psychology, Ohio State University Email author 

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There is mounting evidence that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) provides an appropriate conceptualization for psychiatric disorders in individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). The current study examined symptoms of disruptive behavior, anxiety, and mood disorders and how IQ and language skills impacted their manifestation in a sample of 61 children with ASD and significant emotional/behavioral problems. Subsyndromal presentation and the role of behavior equivalents were also explored. Analyses indicated that children with IQ < 70 had fewer reported symptoms than those with IQ ≥ 70. Symptoms endorsement also varied based on language levels. Individuals with IQ < 70 were more likely to be subsyndromal for Generalized Anxiety Disorder and nonverbal individuals were more likely to be subsyndromal for Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Only one of the seven behavior equivalents was associated with internalized disorders. Special considerations may be necessary when applying some DSM criteria to assess comorbid disorders in individuals with ASDs.


Autism spectrum disorder DSM Psychiatric symptom Behavior problem Comorbidity Validity