Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 47, Issue 12, pp 3692–3703 | Cite as

How Anxious Do You Think I Am? Relationship Between State and Trait Anxiety in Children With and Without ASD During Social Tasks

S.I. : Anxiety in Autism Spectrum Disorders


Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often exhibit increased anxiety, even in non-stressful situations. We investigate general anxiousness (anxiety trait) and responses to stressful situations (anxiety state) in 22 adolescents with ASD and 32 typically developing controls. We measured trait anxiety with standardized self- and parent-reported questionnaires. We used a Biopac system to capture state anxiety via skin conductance responses, mean heart rate and heart rate variability during high- and low-anxiety tasks. Results reveal higher trait anxiety in adolescents with ASD (p < 0.05) and no group difference in state anxiety. Increased parent-reported trait anxiety may predict decreased state anxiety during high-stress conditions. Together, these findings suggest that higher trait anxiety may result in dampened physical responses to stress.


Anxiety ASD Biophysiology Standardized measures 



Funding was provided by NIH-NIDCD 1R01DC012774 (Grossman, PI). We thank Brandon Booth, Theodora Chaspari, and Shrikanth Narayanan at USC-SAIL for assistance with EDA data analysis, James Heathers for helping us establish best practices for ECG data processing, David Cochran, M.D. for consultation on medication use of participants, and Anne Hunt for statistical support. Our appreciation to Darren Hedley and Sarah Lovell for stimulus and method development, as well as to all Emerson students who helped collect and process the data. Our profound gratitude goes to the children and families who gave their time to support our work.

Author Contribution

RBG developed the study concept. Testing and data collection were performed by ERZ and JM. JM and KN performed the data analysis, and JM, ERZ, and RBG interpreted the data. JM drafted the manuscript, and ERZ and RBG provided critical revisions. All authors approved the final version of the manuscript for submission.


This study was funded by Grant # NIDCD-1R01DC012774.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

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.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.FACE LabEmerson CollegeBostonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Communication Sciences and DisordersEmerson CollegeBostonUSA
  3. 3.Shriver CenterUniversity of Massachusetts Medical SchoolWorcesterUSA

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