Severe impairments of social interaction and associated abnormalities in children: Epidemiology and classification

  • Lorna Wing
  • Judith Gould


The prevalence, in children aged under 15, of severe impairments of social interaction, language abnormalities, and repetitive stereotyped behaviors was investigated in an area of London. A “socially impaired” group (more than half of whom were severely retarded) and a comparison group of “sociable severely mentally retarded” children were identified. Mutism or echolalia, and repetitive stereotyped behaviors were found in almost all the socially impaired children, but to a less marked extent in a minority of the sociable severely retarded. Certain organic conditions were found more often in the socially impaired group. A subgroup with a history of Kanner's early childhood autism could be identified reliably but shared many abnormalities with other socially impaired children. The relationships between mental retardation, typical autism, and other conditions involving social impairment were discussed, and a system of classification based on quality of social interaction was considered.


Social Interaction Comparison Group Early Childhood Mental Retardation Mutism 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Anthony, E. J. An experimental approach to the psychopathology of childhood autism.British Journal of Medical Psychology, 1958,21, 211–225. (a)Google Scholar
  2. Anthony, E. J. An etiological approach to the diagnosis of psychosis in childhood.Revue de Psychiatrie Infantile, 1958,25, 89–96. (b)Google Scholar
  3. Anthony, E. J. Low grade psychosis in childhood.Proceedings of the London Conference Scientific Study of Mental Deficiency (Vol. 2). London: May & Baker, 1962.Google Scholar
  4. Asperger, H. Die autistischen Psychopathen im kindersalter.Archiv für Psychiatrie und Nervenkrankheiten, 1944,117, 76–136.Google Scholar
  5. Asperger, H. Infections and mental retardation. In P. Bowman & H. Mautner (Eds.),Mental Retardation: Proceedings of the First International Medical Conference, Portland, Maine. New York: Grune and Stratton, 1960. (a)Google Scholar
  6. Asperger, H. Behavior problems and mental retardation. In P. Bowman & H. Mautner (Eds.),Mental Retardation: Proceedings of the First International Medical Conference, Portland, Maine. New York: Grune & Stratton, 1960. (b)Google Scholar
  7. Bartak, L., & Rutter, M. Differences between mentally retarded and normally intelligent autistic children.Journal of Autism and Childhood Schizophrenia, 1976,6, 109–120.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Brask, B. H. A prevalence investigation of childhood psychosis. InThe 16th Scandinavian Congress of Psychiatry, 1970.Google Scholar
  9. Chess, S. Autism in children with congenital rubella.Journal of Autism and Childhood Schizophrenia, 1971,1, 33–47.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Chess, S. Follow-up report on autism in congenital rubella.Journal of Autism and Childhood Schizophrenia, 1977,7, 69–81.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Corbett, J. A., Harris, R., & Robinson, R. G. Epilepsy. In J. Wortis (Ed.),Mental retardation and developmental disabilities (Vol. 7). New York: Brunner/Mazel, 1975.Google Scholar
  12. Critchley, M., & Earl, C. J. C. Tuberose sclerosis and allied conditions.Brain, 1932,55, 311–346.Google Scholar
  13. DeMyer, M. Motor, perceptual-motor and intellectual disabilities of autistic children. In L. Wing (Ed.),Early childhood autism. (2nd ed.). Oxford: Pergamon, 1976.Google Scholar
  14. De Sanctis, S. Sopra alcune varietà della demenza precoce.Rivista Sperimentale de Freniatria e di Medicina Legale, 1906,32, 141–165.Google Scholar
  15. De Sanctis, S. Dementia praecocissima catatonica oder katatonie des früheren kindesalters?Folia Neurobiologica, 1908,2, 9–12.Google Scholar
  16. Earl, C. J. C. The primitive catatonic psychosis of idiocy.British Journal of Medical Psychology, 1934,14, 230–253.Google Scholar
  17. Folstein, S., & Rutter, M. Infantile autism: A genetic study of 21 twin pairs.Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 1977,18, 297–322.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Freedman, D. A. Congenital and perinatal sensory deprivation: Some studies in early development.American Journal of Psychiatry, 1971,127, 1539–1545.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Gould, J. Language development and non-verbal skills in severely retarded children: An epidemiological study.Journal of Mental Deficiency Research, 1976,20, 129–146.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Greenebaum, J. V., & Lurie, L. A. Encephalitis as a causative factor in behavior disorders in children: Analysis of 78 cases.Journal of the American Medical Association, 1948,136, 923–930.Google Scholar
  21. Haracopos, D., & Kelstrup, A. Psychotic behavior in children under the institutions for the mentally retarded in Denmark.Journal of Autism and Childhood Schizophrenia, 1978,8, 1–12.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Hulse, W. C. Dementia infantilis.Journal of Nervous and Mental Diseases, 1954,119, 471–477.Google Scholar
  23. Jervis, G. A. The clinical picture. In F. L. Lyman (Ed.),Phenylketonuria. Springfield, Illinois: Charles C Thomas, 1963.Google Scholar
  24. Kanner, L. Autistic disturbances of affective contact.Nervous Child, 1943,2, 217–250.Google Scholar
  25. Kanner, L. Irrelevant and metaphorical language in early infantile autism.American Journal of Psychiatry, 1946,103, 242–246.Google Scholar
  26. Kanner, L.Childhood psychosis: Initial studies and new insights Washington: Winston, 1973.Google Scholar
  27. Kanner, L., & Eisenberg, L. Early infantile autism: 1943–1955.American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 1956,26, 55–65.Google Scholar
  28. Keeler, W. R. Autistic patterns and defective communication in blind children with retrolental fibroplasia. In P. H. Hoch & J. Zubin (Eds.),Psychopathology of communication. New York: Grune and Stratton, 1958.Google Scholar
  29. Kolvin, I. Studies in the childhood psychoses. I. Diagnostic criteria and classification.British Journal of Psychiatry, 1971,118, 381–384.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Kolvin, I., Humphrey, M., & McNay, A. Cognitive factors in childhood psychoses.British Journal of Psychiatry, 1971,118, 415–421.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Lotter, V. Epidemiology of autistic conditions in young children. I. Prevalence.Social Psychiatry, 1966,1, 124–137.Google Scholar
  32. Lotter, V. Epidemiology of autistic conditions in young children. II. Some characteristics of the parents and children.Social Psychiatry, 1967,1, 163–173.Google Scholar
  33. Mahler, M. S. On child psychoses and schizophrenia: Autistic and symbiotic infantile psychoses.Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 1952,7, 286–305.Google Scholar
  34. Ricks, D. M., & Wing, L. Language, communication and the use of symbols in normal and autistic children.Journal of Autism and Childhood Schizophrenia, 1975,3, 191–221.Google Scholar
  35. Rutter, M. Autistic children: Infancy to adulthood.Seminars in Psychiatry, 1970,2, 435–450.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Rutter, M. Childhood schizophrenia reconsidered.Journal of Autism and Childhood Schizophrenia, 1972,2, 315–337.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. Rutter, M., & Lockyer, L. A five to fifteen year follow-up study of infantile psychosis. I. Description of the sample.British Journal of Psychiatry, 1967,113, 1169–1182.Google Scholar
  38. Rutter, M., Shaffer, D., & Sturge, C.A guide to a multi-axial classification scheme for psychiatric disorders in childhood and adolescence. London: Institute of Psychiatry, 1975.Google Scholar
  39. Schaffer, H. R. Early social behaviour and the study of reciprocity.Bulletin of the British Psychological Society, 1974,27, 209–216.Google Scholar
  40. Taft, L. T., & Cohen, H. J. Hypsarrhythmia and childhood autism: A clinical report.Journal of Autism and Childhood Schizophrenia, 1971,1, 327–336.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. Trevarthen, C. Conversations with a two-month old.New Scientist, 1974,62, 230–235.Google Scholar
  42. Van Krevelen, D. A. Early infantile autism and autistic psychopathy.Journal of Autism and Childhood Schizophrenia, 1971,1, 82–86.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. Wing, J. K., & Hailey, A. (Eds.).Evaluating a community psychiatric service: The Camberwell Register 1964–77. London: Oxford University Press, 1972.Google Scholar
  44. Wing, L. The handicaps of autistic children—a comparative study.Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 1969,10, 1–40.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  45. Wing, L. Perceptual and language development in autistic children: A comparative study. In M. Rutter (Ed.),Infantile autism: Concepts, characteristics and treatment. London: Churchill, 1971.Google Scholar
  46. Wing, L., & Gould, J. Systematic recording of behaviors and skills of retarded and psychotic children.Journal of Autism and Childhood Schizophrenia. 1978,8, 79–97.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  47. Wing, L., Gould, J., Yeates, S. R., & Brierley, L. M. Symbolic play in severely mentally retarded and in autistic children.Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 1977,18, 167–178.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  48. Wing, L., Yeates, S. R., Brierley, L. M., & Gould, J. The prevalence of early childhood autism: Comparison of administrative and epidemiological studies.Psychological Medicine, 1976,6, 89–100.PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lorna Wing
    • 1
  • Judith Gould
    • 1
  1. 1.Medical Research CouncilSocial Psychiatry UnitLondon

Personalised recommendations