Expressive incoherence can be implicated in socio-emotional communicative problems in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The present study examined expressive incoherence in 37 children with ASD and 41 typically developing (TD) children aged 3–13 years old during a frustration task. The role of alexithymia in expressive incoherence was also assessed. Compared to TD children, children with ASD had higher expressive incoherence, such as more neutral and positive emotion expressions during negative behaviors, but not in the expression of negative emotions during positive behaviors. Further analyses revealed that alexithymia moderated the expressions of positive emotions during negative behaviors. These results suggest that children with ASD may benefit from interventions targeting alexithymia to increase emotional coherence, which may improve socio-emotional communication.
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Among the 37 children diagnosed with ASD 20 had been previously diagnosed with low-functioning ASD (3 female) and 17 had been previously diagnosed with high-functioning ASD (2 female). Children in the low-functioning ASD group had either intellectual or language delays, or both, and attended special education schools. Children in the high-functioning group did not have any intellectual or language delays and attended regular schools. Analyses comparing children with low-functioning ASD and high-functioning ASD were carried out (see Online Resources 1 through 3) and confirmed that children who were previously diagnosed with low-functioning ASD did not differ from children who were previously diagnosed with high-functioning ASD in a way that would affect the interpretation of the results.
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This manuscript has not been previously published and is not under consideration in the same or substantially similar form in any other journal. This manuscript is part of a series of manuscripts describing the major findings of a study in emotional reactivity and emotion regulation in children with ASD. Although the different manuscripts will be based on the same dataset, research questions and analyses will be substantially different.
APC conceived of the study, participated in its design and coordination of the study, performed the measurements, participated in the analysis and interpretation of data, and drafted the manuscript; GS participated in the conception and design of the study, interpretation of the data, and in revising the manuscript; ACS participated in the analysis and interpretation of data and in revising the manuscript critically for important intellectual content. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
Conflict of interest
Andreia P. Costa declares that she has no conflict of interest. Georges Steffgen declares that he has no conflict of interest. Andrea C. Samson declares that she has no conflict of interest.
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 was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
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Costa, A.P., Steffgen, G. & Samson, A.C. Expressive Incoherence and Alexithymia in Autism Spectrum Disorder. J Autism Dev Disord 47, 1659–1672 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-017-3073-9
- Emotional response incoherence
- Expressive incoherence
- Autism spectrum disorder