Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 35, Issue 2, pp 145-158

First online:

Repetitive Behavior Profiles in Asperger Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism

  • Mikle SouthAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Utah and Utah Autism Research Project
  • , Sally OzonoffAffiliated withM.I.N.D. Institute, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of California-Davis Email author 
  • , William M. McMahonAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry, University of Utah School of Medicine and Utah Autism Research Project

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Although repetitive behaviors are a core diagnostic domain for autism spectrum disorders, research in this area has been neglected. This study had two major aims (1) to provide a detailed characterization of repetitive behaviors in individuals with Asperger Syndrome (AS), high-functioning autism (HFA), and typically developing controls (TD); and (2) to examine whether differences in repetitive behavior profiles could provide evidence for the external validity of AS separate from HFA. Specifically, it was hypothesized that circumscribed interests would be more prevalent and cause more impairment in the AS group than the HFA group, while the reverse would be true for other categories of repetitive behavior. The parent(s) of 61 children and adolescents (19 with AS, 21 with HFA, and 21 TD) completed two interviews focused specifically on lifetime and current repetitive behavior symptoms. No reliable differences in repetitive behavior between AS and HFA children were found. Results suggested that circumscribed interests differ in developmental course from the three other DSM-IV-TR categories of repetitive behavior. Internal consistency among the four DSM-IV-TR categories of repetitive behavior was high, α=.84, providing evidence for a unitary repetitive behaviors factor. The importance of expanding research in the repetitive behavior domain is highlighted as part of the necessary integration of behavioral and neurobiological approaches to understanding the etiology of autism.


Autism Asperger Syndrome repetitive behavior circumscribed interests