Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 22, Issue 4, pp 507–523 | Cite as

A review of the DSM-III-R criteria for autistic disorder

  • Peter Szatmari


The objective of this paper is to review the psychometric properties of the new DSM-III-R criteria for autism. Five data sets were evaluated according to a set of methodological criteria. The results indicate that the DSM-III-R criteria for autistic disorder have, on average, very good sensitivity, but much lower specificity. The implications of this are (a) greater numbers of children diagnosed as autistic; (b) greater numbers of children misdiagnosed as autistic; and (c) greater heterogeneity among samples of autistic children. In essence, the DSM-III-R criteria act more like screening tests than diagnostic criteria. Conceptual and methodologic issues in the evaluation of diagnostic criteria are discussed.


Psychometric Property Screen Test Good Sensitivity Methodologic Issue Lower Specificity 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Szatmari
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryMcMaster University, Patterson Building, Chedoke-McMaster HospitalsHamiltonCanada

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