The Relationship Between Autistic Traits and Social Anxiety, Worry, Obsessive–Compulsive, and Depressive Symptoms: Specific and Non-specific Mediators in a Student Sample
- 1.7k Downloads
The high prevalence of anxiety symptoms in individuals with autism spectrum disorders has now been well documented. There is also a positive relationship between autistic traits and anxiety symptoms in unselected samples and individuals with anxiety disorders have more autistic traits compared to those without. Less is known, however, regarding which elements of autistic traits (i.e., social versus non-social/behavioral) or which other variables may mediate this relationship. This study investigated the shared and specific role of five autistic-trait related mediators (social problem-solving, social competence, teasing experiences, prevention from/punishment for preferred repetitive behaviors and aversive sensory experiences) in a non-clinical sample of 252 university students. Autistic traits positively correlated with both anxiety and depressive symptoms. Social competence mediated the relationship between autistic traits and social anxiety symptoms only, while only prevention from preferred repetitive behaviors and frequent aversive sensory experiences mediated the relationship between autistic traits, worry and obsessive–compulsive symptoms. Replication of these findings is required in longitudinal studies and with clinical samples. Limitations of the study are discussed and possible implications for intervention are tentatively suggested.
KeywordsAutism Autistic traits Anxiety Depression Mediator Relationship Predictor
This study was supported by an NUS FASS Staff Research Support Scheme grant awarded to Dr Iliana Magiati and Dr. Ryan Hong. We would like to thank the authors of the TQ-R and the RBS-R measures employed in this study for allowing and approving some minor modifications to their original measures to make the tools more suitable for the purposes of the present study. Preliminary findings from this study were presented at the International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR) in May 2013 in St. Sebastian, Spain.
- Allison, C., Auyeung, B., & Baron-Cohen, S. (2012). Toward brief “red flags” for autism screening: the Short Autism Spectrum Quotients and the Short Quantitative Checklist in 1,000 cases and 3,000 controls. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 51(2), 202–212.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Anderson, R. J., Goddard, L., & Powell, J. H. (2007). Social problem-solving processes and mood in college students: An examination of self-report and performance-based approaches. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 5, 573–593.Google Scholar
- Baron-Cohen, S., Wheelwright, S., Skinner, R., Martin, J., & Clubley, E. (2001). The Autism-Spectrum Quotient (AQ): Evidence from Asperger Syndrome/high-functioning autism, males and females, scientists and mathematicians. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 31, 5–17.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Brown, C., & Dunn, W. (2002). Adolescent/adult sensory profile manual. San Antonio, TX: Psychological Corporation.Google Scholar
- Cohen, J. (1988). Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences (2nd ed.). New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
- Constantino, J. N. (2013). Is autism a common personality trait? In S. Bölte & J. Hallmayer (Eds.), Autism spectrum conditions: FAQs on autism, Asperger syndrome, and atypical autism answered by international experts (pp. 24–26). Cambridge, MA: Hogrefe.Google Scholar
- Field, A. (2009). Discovering statistics using SPSS (3rd ed.). London: Sage.Google Scholar
- Freeth, M., Bullock, T., & Milne, E. (2013a). The distribution of and relationship between autistic traits and social anxiety in a UK student population. Autism, 17(5), 571–581.Google Scholar
- Freeth, M., Sheppard, E., Ramachandran, R., & Milne, E. (2013b). A Cross-cultural comparison of autistic traits in the UK, India and Malaysia. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. Google Scholar
- Gerdts, J., & Beriner, R. (2011). The broader autism phenotype and its implications on the etiology and treatment of autism spectrum disorders. Autism Research and Treatment, doi: 10.1155/2011/545901.
- Hoekstra, R. A., Bartels, M., Cath, D. C., & Boomsma, D. I. (2008). Factor structure, reliability and criterion validity of the autism spectrum quotient (AQ): A study in Dutch population and patient groups. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 38(8), 1555–1566.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Kenny, D. A. (2014). Mediation. Retrieved on 1 July 2014 from http://davidakenny.net/cm/mediate.htm.
- Kerns, C. M., & Kendall, P. C. (2012). The presentation and classification of anxiety in autism spectrum disorder. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 19(4), 323–347.Google Scholar
- Kimball, J. G. (1999). Sensory integration frame of reference: Theoretical base, function/dysfunction continua, and guide to evaluation. In P. Kramer & J. Hinjosa (Eds.), Frames of references for pediatric occupational therapy (2nd ed., pp. 119–168). Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.Google Scholar
- Lam, K. S. L. (2004). The Repetitive Behavior Scale-Revised: independent validation and the effect of subject variables. PhD thesis, Ohio State University, p. 129.Google Scholar
- Riggio, R. E. (1989). Manual for the Social Skills Inventory. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.Google Scholar
- Schroeder, J., Cappadocia, C., Bebko, J., Pepler, D., & Weiss, J. (2014) Shedding light on a pervasive problem: A review of research on bullying experiences among children with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders (Epub ahead of print).Google Scholar
- Skuse, D., Mandy, W., Steer, C., Miller, L., Goodman, R., Lawrence, K., et al. (2009). Social communication competence and functional adaptation in a general population of children: Preliminary evidence for sex-by-verbal IQ differential risk. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 48, 128–137.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Sukhodolsky, D. G., Scahill, L., Gadow, K. D., Arnold, L. E., Aman, M. G., McDougle, C. J., et al. (2008). Parent-rated anxiety symptoms in children with pervasive developmental disorders: Frequency and association with core autism symptoms and cognitive functioning. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 36, 117–128.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- van Steensel, F. J. A., Bogels, S. M., & Perrin, S. (2011). Anxiety disorders in children and adolescents with Autistic Spectrum Disorders: A meta-analysis. Clinical, Child, Family Psychology Review, 14, 301–317.Google Scholar
- Vickerstaff, S., Heriot, S., Wong, M., Lopes, A., & Dossetor, D. (2007). Intellectual ability, self-perceived social competence, and depressive symptomatology in children with high-functioning autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 37, 1647–1664.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Wood, J., & Gadow, K. D. (2010). Exploring the nature and function of anxiety in youth with autism spectrum disorders. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 17(4), 281–292.Google Scholar