Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 36, Issue 4, pp 591–599 | Cite as

Variability in Adaptive Behavior in Autism: Evidence for the Importance of Family History

  • Carla A. Mazefsky
  • Diane L. Williams
  • Nancy J. Minshew


Adaptive behavior in autism is highly variable and strongly related to prognosis. This study explored family history as a potential source of variability in adaptive behavior in autism. Participants included 77 individuals (mean age = 18) with average or better intellectual ability and autism. Parents completed the Family History Interview about the presence of broader autism phenotype symptoms and major psychiatric disorders in first degree relatives. Adaptive behavior was assessed via the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales (VABS). Based on family history variables, age, and intelligence quotient (IQ), 87% of participants were correctly classified as having impaired or average VABS scores. Family history of depression and shyness accounted for the most variance in VABS scores, and they had the greatest influence on VABS Socialization scores in particular. Possible underlying mechanisms include genetics, psychosocial factors, and social resources. This study provides initial evidence of the importance of family history to adaptive behavior in autism and has implications for genetics and treatment.


Autism Adaptive Behavior Family History Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales Broader Autism Phenotype 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carla A. Mazefsky
    • 1
    • 4
  • Diane L. Williams
    • 2
  • Nancy J. Minshew
    • 3
  1. 1.Departments of Pediatrics and PsychiatryUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA
  2. 2.Department of Speech–Language PathologyDuquesne UniversityPittsburghUSA
  3. 3.Departments of Psychiatry and NeurologyUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA
  4. 4.Child Development UnitChildren’s Hospital of PittsburghPittsburghUSA

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