Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 46, Issue 8, pp 2621–2634 | Cite as

Externalizing and Internalizing Symptoms Moderate Longitudinal Patterns of Facial Emotion Recognition in Autism Spectrum Disorder

  • Tamara E. Rosen
  • Matthew D. LernerEmail author
Original Paper


Facial emotion recognition (FER) is thought to be a key deficit domain in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). However, the extant literature is based solely on cross-sectional studies; thus, little is known about even short-term intra-individual dynamics of FER in ASD over time. The present study sought to examine trajectories of FER in ASD youth over 18 weeks of repeated measurement, and evaluate the effects of internalizing and externalizing symptoms on these trajectories. Hierarchical Linear Modeling analyses revealed that FER errors decreased over time, even for particularly difficult stimuli. Moreover, FER improvement was enhanced by internalizing symptoms but attenuated by externalizing symptoms. Implications for models of FER development, reciprocal relations between FER and comorbidity, and intervention design and planning are discussed.


Autism spectrum disorder Comorbidity DANVA-2 Facial emotion recognition Longitudinal assessment 



The authors would like to thank the participating families, the Cambridge Health Alliance Child and Adolescent Neuropsychiatric Research Program research staff and the staff at the North Shore Arc, in particular Jean Frazier, Janis Breeze, Louann Larson, Brian Gordon, Rebecca Girard, Janine Terry, Andrea Yee, Brittany Jordan, and Benjamin Zablotsky. Special thanks are also extended to Steven Nowicki, Jr. for consultation. Most vitally, we thank Dr. Karen Levine for her extraordinary guidance and care, and for her original initiation of this project. This research was sponsored by the Medical Foundation’s Deborah Munroe Noonan Fund – Bank of America Trustee. MDL was partially supported by awards from the Brian A. Wright Memorial Autism Research Fund, the Center for Health Innovation at Adelphi University, the Simons Foundation (SFARI# 381283), and the Alan Alda Fund for Communication. The sponsor of the study had no role in study design, data interpretation, or writing of the report.

Author Contributions

Lerner conducted data collection. Rosen & Lerner contributed to all aspects of data preparation and analysis, and manuscript writing.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study. All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyStony Brook UniversityStony BrookUSA

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