Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 34, Issue 6, pp 625–635 | Cite as

Emotional Understanding, Cooperation, and Social Behavior in High-Functioning Children with Autism

  • Andrew Downs
  • Tristram SmithEmail author


In contrast to typically developing children, children with autism rarely exhibit cooperative social behavior. To examine whether this problem reflects global developmental delays or autism-specific deficits, the present study compared cooperation, emotional understanding, personality characteristics, and social behavior of 10 children with autism who had average IQ to those of 16 children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) and 10 typically developing children. In cooperative behavior, level of emotional understanding, and aloof behavior, the autism group outperformed the ADHD/ODD group and did not differ significantly from typically developing children. However, the autism group showed worse emotion recognition and more active-but-odd behavior than the other groups. The results indicate that high-functioning children with autism can develop cooperative social behavior and advanced theory of mind abilities, but continue to show deficits in identifying emotions and displaying socially appropriate behavior.


Autism ADHD social skills cooperation emotion 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Baron-Cohen, S. 1991Do people with autism understand what causes emotion?Child Development62385395Google Scholar
  2. Baron-Cohen, S. 1995Mindblindness.MIT PressCambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  3. Boucher, J., Lewis, V. 1992Unfamiliar face recognition in relatively able autistic childrenJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines33843859Google Scholar
  4. Buitelaar, J.K., Wees, M., Swaab-Barneveld, H., Gaag, R.J. 1999Theory of mind and emotion-recognition functioning in autistic spectrum disorders and in psychiatric control and normal childrenDevelopmental Psychopathology113958Google Scholar
  5. Cadesky, E. B., Mota, V. L., Schachar, R. J. 2000How do children with ADHD and/or conduct problems process nonverbal information about affect?American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry3911601167Google Scholar
  6. Capps, L., Yirmiya, N., Sigman, M. 1992Understanding of simple and complex emotions in non-retarded children with autismJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry3311691182Google Scholar
  7. Carlo, G., Knight, G. P., Eisenberg, N., Rotenberg, K. J. 1991Cognitive processes and prosocial behaviors among children: The role of affective attributions and reconciliationsDevelopmental Psychology27456461Google Scholar
  8. Castelloe, P., Dawson, G. 1991Subclassification of children with autism and pervasive developmental disorder: A questionnaire based on Wing’s subgrouping schemeJournal of Autism and Developmental Disorders23229241Google Scholar
  9. Chandler, M. 1973Egocentrism and anti-social behavior: The assessment and training of social perspective-taking skillsDevelopmental Psychology9326332Google Scholar
  10. Cohen, D. J., Volkmar, F. R. 1997Handbook of autism and pervasive developmental disordersWileyNew YorkGoogle Scholar
  11. Crick, N. R., Dodge, K. A. 1994A review and reformulation of social information-processing mechanisms in children’s social adjustmentPsychological Bulletin11574101Google Scholar
  12. Dodge, K. A. 1986A social information processing model of social competence in childrenPerlmutter, M. eds. Minnesota symposia on child psychologyErlbaumHillsdale, NJ77125Vol. 18Google Scholar
  13. Dodge, K. A. 1989Problems in social relationshipsMarsh, E. J.Barkley, R. A. eds. Treatment of childhood disordersGuilford PressNew York222244Google Scholar
  14. Grossman, J. B., Klin, A., Carter, A. S., Volkmar, F. R. 2000Verbal bias in recognition of facial emotions in children with Asperger syndromeJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines41369379Google Scholar
  15. Hauck, M., Fein, D., Maltby, N., Waterhouse, L., Feinstein, C. 1998Memory for faces in children with autismChild Neuropsychology4187198Google Scholar
  16. Hermelin, B., O’Connor, N. 1985The logico-affective disorder in autismSchopler, E.Mesibov, G.B. eds. Communication problems in autismPlenum PressNew York283310Google Scholar
  17. Hobson, R. P. 1986The autistic child’s concept of peopleCommunication201217Google Scholar
  18. Hobson, R. P., Ouston, J., Lee, A. 1988What’s in a face? The case of autismBritish Journal of Psychology79441453Google Scholar
  19. Hobson, R. P., Ouston, J., Lee, A. 1989Naming emotion in faces and voices: Abilities and disabilities in autism and mental retardationBritish Journal of Developmental Psychology7237250Google Scholar
  20. Holroyd, S., Baron-Cohen, S. 1993Brief report: How far can people with autism go in developing a theory of mind?Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders23379385Google Scholar
  21. Howlin, P., Baron-Cohen, S., Hadwin, J. 1999Teaching children with autism to mind-read: A practical guideWileyWest SussexGoogle Scholar
  22. Klin, A., Jones, W., Schultz, R., Volkmar, F., Cohen, D. 2002Visual fixation patterns during viewing of naturalistic social situations as predictors of social competence in individuals with autismArchives of General Psychiatry59809816Google Scholar
  23. Knight, G. P. 1981Behavioral and sociometric methods of identifying cooperators, competitors, and individualists: Support for the validity of the social orientation constructDevelopmental Psychology17430433Google Scholar
  24. Knight, G. P., Kagan, S. 1977Development of prosocial and competitive behaviors in Anglo-American and Mexican-American childrenChild Development4813851394Google Scholar
  25. Kohler, F. W., Strain, P. S. 1990Peer-assisted interventions: Early promises, notable achievements, and future aspirationsClinical Psychology Review10441452Google Scholar
  26. Kohler, F. W., Strain, P. S., Hoyson, M., Jamieson, B. 1997Merging naturalistic teaching and peer-based strategies to address the IEP objectives of preschoolers with autism: An examination of structural and behavior outcomesFocus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities12196206Google Scholar
  27. Langdell, T. 1978Recognition of faces: An approach to the study of autismJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines19255268Google Scholar
  28. Lefebvre, D., Strain, P. S. 1989Effects of a group contingency on the frequency of social interactions among autistic and nonhandicapped preschool children: Making LRE efficaciousJournal of Early Intervention13329341Google Scholar
  29. Lovaas, O. I., Ackerman, A. B., Alexander, D., Firestone, P., Perkins, J., Young, D. 1981Teaching developmentally disabled children: The ME book.Pro-EdAustin, TXGoogle Scholar
  30. Lovaas, O.I., Koegel, R. L., Schreibman, L. 1979Stimulus overselectivity in autism: A review of researchPsychology Bulletin8612361254Google Scholar
  31. Matsumoto, D., Haan, N., Yabrove, G., Theodorou, P., Carney, C. C. 1986Preschoolers’ moral actions and emotions in prisoner’s dilemmaDevelopmental Psychology22663670Google Scholar
  32. McClintock, C. G., Moskowitz, J. M. 1976Children’s preferences for individualistic, cooperative, and competitive outcomesJournal of Personality and Social Psychology34543555Google Scholar
  33. Mottron, L., Burack, J., Stauder, J., Robaey, P. 1999Perceptual processing among high-functioning persons with autismJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines40203211Google Scholar
  34. Prior, M., Dahlstrom, B., Squires, T. 1990Autistic children’s knowledge of thinking and feeling states in other peopleJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry31587601Google Scholar
  35. Rubin, K. H., Rose-Krasnor, L. 1992Interpersonal problem-solving and social competence in childrenHasselt, V. B.Hersen, M. eds. Handbook of social development: A lifespan perspectivePlenum PressNew York283324Google Scholar
  36. Rutter, M. R., Lord, C., Couteur, A. 1994Autism diagnostic interviewMRC Psychiatry Unit, Institute of PsychiatryLondonGoogle Scholar
  37. Schultz, R.T., Gauthier, I., Klin, A., Fullbright, R.K., Anderson, A.W., Volkmar, F., Skuldarski, P., Lacadie, C., Cohen, D.J., Gore, J.C. 2000Abnormal ventral temporal cortical activity during face discrimination among individuals with autism and Asperger syndromeArchives of General Psychiatry57331340Google Scholar
  38. Smith, T. 1999Outcome of early intervention for children with autismClinical Psychology: Research and Practice63349Google Scholar
  39. Sparrevohn, R., Howie, P. 1995Theory of mind in children with autistic disorder: Evidence of developmental progression and the role of verbal abilityJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines36249263Google Scholar
  40. Strain, P. S. 1984Social behavior patterns of nonhandicapped and developmentally disabled friend pairs in mainstream preschoolsAnalysis and Intervention in Developmental Disabilities41528Google Scholar
  41. Tantum, D., Monaghan, L., Nicholson, H., Stirling, J. 1989Autistic children’s ability to interpret faces: A research noteJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines30623630Google Scholar
  42. Wechsler, D. 1989Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scales of IntelligencePsychological CorporationSan AntonioGoogle Scholar
  43. Wechsler, D. 1991Manual for the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-third edition (WISC-III)Psychological CorporationNew YorkGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyWashington State UniversityUSA
  2. 2.Strong Center for Developmental DisabilitiesUniversity of Rochester Medical CenterRochesterUSA

Personalised recommendations