Helping and sharing in preschool children with autism

Abstract

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by deficits in social-cognitive and social-communicative behaviors. Yet, little is known about the extent to which children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) engage in prosocial action. We assessed helping and sharing behaviors in 3- to 6-year-old neurotypically (NT) developing children and children diagnosed with ASD. Children with ASD were more inclined to show spontaneous helping in the absence of the helpee than NT children. In the sharing task, NT children shared the resources equally between themselves and the recipients. In contrast, ASD children kept less for themselves and gave more resources away. In addition, the stronger the ASD symptoms were and the less cognitively weaker they were, the more children preferred to give resources to a rich than to a poor other.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1

References

  1. Aldaqre I, Schuwerk T, Daum MM, Sodian B et al (2016) Sensitivity to communicative and non-communicative gestures in adolescents and adults with autism spectrum disorder: saccadic and pupillary responses. Exp Brain Res 234:2515–2527. doi:10.1007/s00221-016-4656-y

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  2. Auyeung B, Baron-Cohen S, Wheelwright S, Allison C (2008) The autism spectrum quotient: children’s version (AQ-Child). J Autism Dev Dis 38(7):1230–1240. doi:10.1007/s10803-007-0504-z

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Bacon AL, Fein D, Morris R, Waterhouse L, Allen D (1998) The responses of autistic children to the distress of others. J Autism Dev Dis 28:129–142. doi:10.1023/A:1026040615628

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Baron-Cohen S, Wheelwright S (2004) The empathy quotient: an investigation of adults with Asperger syndrome or high functioning autism, and normal sex differences. J Autism Dev Dis 34:163–175. doi:10.1023/B:JADD.0000022607.19833.00

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Benenson JF, Pascoe J, Radmore N (2007) Children’s altruistic behavior in the dictator game. Evol Hum Behav 28:168–175. doi:10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2006.10.003

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Bons D, van den Broek E, Scheepers F, Herpers P, Rommelse N, Buitelaaar JK (2013) Motor, emotional, and cognitive empathy in children and adolescents with Autism spectrum disorder and conduct disorder. J Abn Child Psychol 41:425–443. doi:10.1007/s10802-012-9689-5

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Caprara GV, Barbaranelli C, Pastorelli C, Bandura A, Zimbardo G (2000) Prosocial foundations of children’s academic achievement. Psychol Sci 11:302–306. doi:10.1111/1467-9280.00260

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  8. Carpendale JIM, Kettner VA, Audet KN (2015) On the nature of toddlers’ helping: helping or interest in others’ activity? Soc Dev 24:357–366. doi:10.1111/sode.12094

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Charman T, Swettenham J, Baron-Cohen S, Cox A, Baird G, Drew A (1997) Infants with autism: an investigation of empathy, pretend play, joint attention, and imitation. Dev Psychol 33:781–789

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  10. Chevallier C, Kohls G, Troiani V, Brodkin ES, Schultz RT (2012) The social motivation theory of autism. Trends Cogn Sci 16:231–239

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  11. Dawson G, Toth K, Abbott R, Osterling J, Munson J, Estes A, Liaw J (2004) Early social impairments in autism: social orienting, joint attention, and attention to distress. Dev Psychol 40:271–283

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  12. Dunfield KA (2014) A construct divided: prosocial behavior as helping, sharing, and comforting subtypes. Front Psychol 5:958. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00958

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  13. Dunfield KA, Kuhlmeier VA (2013) Classifying prosocial behaviour: children’s responses to instrumental need, emotional distress, and material desire. Child Dev 84:1766–1776. doi:10.1111/cdev.12075

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  14. Eisenberg N, Fabes RA (1998) Prosocial development. In: Damon W, Eisenberg N (eds) Handbook of child psychology, 5th ed.: vol 3. Social, emotional, and personality development. Wiley, Hoboken

    Google Scholar 

  15. Fehr E, Bernhard H, Rockenbach B (2008) Egalitarianism in young children. Nature 454:1079–1084. doi:10.1038/nature07155

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  16. Hammond SI (2014) Children’s early helping in action: Piagetian developmental theory and early prosocial behavior. Front Psychol 5:759. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00759

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  17. Hay DF, Cook KV (2007) The transformation of prosocial behavior from infancy to childhood. In: Brownell CA, Kopp CB (eds) Transitions in early socioemotional development: the toddler years. Guilford Press, New York

    Google Scholar 

  18. Hobson JA, Harris R, Garcia-Perez R, Hobson RP (2009) Anticipatory concern: a study in autism. Dev Sci 12:249–263. doi:10.1111/j.1467-7687.2008.00762.x

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  19. Kenward B, Hellmer K, Söderström Winter L, Eriksson M (2015) Four-year-olds’ strategic allocation of resources: attempts to elicit reciprocation correlate negatively with spontaneous helping. Cognition 136:1–8. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2014.11.035

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  20. Li V, Spitzer B, Olson KR (2014) Preschoolers reduce inequality while favoring individuals with more. Child Dev 85:1123–1133

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  21. Liebal K, Colombi C, Rogers SJ, Warneken F, Tomasello M (2008) Helping and cooperation in children with autism. J Autism Dev Dis 38:224–238. doi:10.1007/s10803-007-0381-5

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. LoBue V, Nishida T, Chiong C, DeLoache JS, Haidt J (2011) When getting something good is bad: even three-year-olds react to inequality. Soc Dev 20:154–170. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9507.2009.00560.x

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Markiewicz D, Doyle AB, Brendgen M (2001) The quality of adolescents’ friendships: associations with mothers’ interpersonal relationships, attachments to parents and friends, and prosocial behaviors. J Adolesc 24:429–445. doi:10.1006/jado.2001.0374

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  24. Martinez M (n.d.). Autism spectrum quotient (AQ) (Child)—Español. http://www.autismresearchcentre.com/arc_tests

  25. Moore C (2009) Fairness in children’s resource allocation depends on the recipient. Psychol Sci 20:944–948. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02378.x

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  26. Nuske HJ, Vivanti G, Hudry K, Dissanayake C (2014) Pupillometry reveals reduced unconscious emotional reactivity in autism. Biol Psychol 101:24–35. doi:10.1016/j.biopsycho.2014.07.003

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  27. Olson KR, Spelke ES (2008) Foundations of cooperation in young children. Cognition 108:222–231. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2007.12.003

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  28. Olson KR, Banaji MR, Dweck CS, Spelke ES (2006) Children’s biased evaluations of lucky vs. unlucky people and their social groups. Psychol Sci 17:845–846. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.2006.01792.x

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  29. Pagulayan KF, Busch RM, Medina KL, Bartok JA, Krikorian R (2006) Developmental normative data for the Corsi Block-tapping task. J Clin Exp Neuropsychol 28:1043–1052. doi:10.1080/13803390500350977

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Paulus M (2014a) The emergence of prosocial behavior: why do infants and toddlers help, comfort, and share? Child Dev Persp 8:77–81. doi:10.1111/cdep.12066

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Paulus M (2014b) The early origins of human charity: developmental changes in preschoolers’ sharing with poor and wealthy individuals. Front Psychol 5:344

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  32. Paulus M (2016) Friendship trumps neediness: the impact of social relations and others’ wealth on preschool children’s sharing. J Exp Child Psy 146:106–120. doi:10.1016/j.jecp.2016.02.001

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Paulus M, Kühn-Popp N, Licata M, Sodian B, Meinhardt J (2013) Neural correlates of prosocial behavior in infancy: different neurophysiological mechanisms support the emergence of helping and comforting. Neuroimage 66:522–530. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2012.10.041

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  34. Schmidt MFH, Svetlova M, Johe J, Tomasello M (2016) Children’s developing understanding of legitimate reasons for allocating resources unequally. Cogn Dev 37:42–52. doi:10.1016/j.cogdev.2015.11.001

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Schmitz EA, Banerjee R, Pouw LBC, Stockmann L, Rieffe C (2015) Better to be equal? Challenges to equality for cognitively able children with autism spectrum disorders in a social decision game. Autism 19:178–184. doi:10.1177/1362361313516547

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  36. Schwenck C, Mergenthaler J, Keller K, Zech J, Salehi S et al (2012) Empathy in children with autism and conduct disorder: group-specific profiles and developmental aspects: empathy in children with autism and CD. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 53:651–659

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  37. Shaw A, Olson KR (2012) Children discard a resource to avoid inequity. J Exp Psychol Gen 141:382–395. doi:10.1037/a0025907

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  38. Sigman M, Ruskin E (1999) Continuity and change in the social competence of children with autism, down syndrome, and developmental delays. Mono Soc Res Child Dev 64:1–114

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Smith CE, Blake PR, Harris PL (2013) I should but I won’t: why young children endorse norms of fair sharing but do not follow them. PLoS One 8(3):e59510. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0059510

    CAS  Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  40. Svetlova M, Nichols S, Brownell C (2010) Toddlers’ prosocial behavior: from instrumental to empathic to altruistic helping. Child Dev 81:1814–1827. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624.2010.01512.x

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  41. Thompson C, Barresi J, Moore C (1997) The development of future-oriented prudence and altruism in preschoolers. Cogn Dev 12:199–212. doi:10.1016/S0885-2014(97)90013-7

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Warneken F (2013) Young children proactively remedy unnoticed accidents. Cognition 126:101–108. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2012.09.011

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  43. Warneken F, Tomasello M (2006) Altruistic helping in infants and young chimpanzees. Science 311(5765):1301–1303. doi:10.1126/science.1121448

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  44. Wörle M, Paulus M (in press) Normative expectations about fairness: the development of a charity norm in preschoolers. J Exp Child Psy

  45. Yirmia N, Sigman MD, Kasari C, Mundy P (1992) Empathy and cognition in high-functioning children with autism. Child Dev 63:150–160. doi:10.2307/1130909

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Zinser O, Perry JS, Edgar RM (1975) Affluence of the recipient, value of donations, and sharing behavior in preschool children. J Psychol 89:301–305. doi:10.1080/00223980.1975.9915766

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

For support with data acquisition and data coding we are grateful to Montse Genaró, Amaia García. We also thank the children who participated in the study and the CDIAP Montsià, CDIAP Terres de l’Ebre, Lluïssa Chavarria, Col.legi Diocesà Sagrada Família i Àngels Piquet.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Markus Paulus.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Paulus, M., Rosal-Grifoll, B. Helping and sharing in preschool children with autism. Exp Brain Res 235, 2081–2088 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00221-017-4947-y

Download citation

Keywords

  • Neurodevelopmental disorder
  • Autism
  • Preschoolers
  • Prosocial development