Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 37, Issue 1, pp 59–78 | Cite as

Temperament and its Relationship to Autistic Symptoms in a High-Risk Infant Sib Cohort

  • Nancy GaronEmail author
  • Susan E. Bryson
  • Lonnie Zwaigenbaum
  • Isabel M. Smith
  • Jessica Brian
  • Wendy Roberts
  • Peter Szatmari


The present study prospectively investigated early temperamental profiles and their associations with autistic symptoms in high-risk infants (N = 138) with an older sibling with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) and low-risk infants (N = 73) with no family history of ASD. Children who were diagnosed with ASD at 36 months were distinguished from non-ASD sibs and controls by a temperament profile marked by lower positive affect, higher negative affect and difficulty controlling attention and behavior, which we labeled Effortful Emotion Regulation. This profile also distinguished the non-ASD sib group from the control group. Children with ASD were distinguished from both of the other two groups by a temperament profile of low Behavioral Approach (lower sensitivity to “social” reward cues). Low levels of Behavioral Approach were associated with a higher number of ASD symptoms, even after taking into account IQ, sex and group membership. Finally, a cluster analysis revealed two ASD subgroups distinguished by number of ASD symptoms, IQ, age of diagnosis and scores on the Behavioral Approach profile. These findings suggest that temperament may be a useful framework for understanding the emergence of ASD early in life.


ASD Temperament High-risk infants Toddler behavior assessment questionnaire-revised 



This study was supported by grants from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and Autism Speaks and a research fellowship from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to Dr. Garon. We thank the families for their generous support of this research.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nancy Garon
    • 1
    Email author
  • Susan E. Bryson
    • 1
    • 2
  • Lonnie Zwaigenbaum
    • 3
  • Isabel M. Smith
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jessica Brian
    • 4
  • Wendy Roberts
    • 4
  • Peter Szatmari
    • 5
  1. 1.IWK Health CentreHalifaxCanada
  2. 2.Departments of Pediatrics and PsychologyDalhousie UniversityHalifaxCanada
  3. 3.Department of Pediatrics, Glenrose Rehabilitation HospitalUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  4. 4.Department of Pediatrics, The Hospital for Sick ChildrenUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  5. 5.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural NeurosciencesMcMaster UniversityHamiltonCanada

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