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Temperament Similarities and Differences: A Comparison of Factor Structures from the Behavioral Style Questionnaire in Children with and Without Autism Spectrum Disorder


The majority of studies of temperament in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) use scales normed on typical populations. The present study examined a widely used measure of temperament, the Behavioral Style Questionnaire (McDevitt and Carey in Behavioral Styles Questionnaire, Behavioral-Developmental Initiatives Scottsdale, AZ, 1975) to determine whether it contains the temperament traits theorized by its creators. Neither confirmatory nor exploratory factor analysis, using a sample of children with ASD and a population comparison group, identified the theorized nine temperament factors; many items did not strongly load on any of the original factors. A 10 factor solution best described the ASD data and a 9 factor solution best described the typical group’s data. There were substantial similarities in the 9 factor solutions, but groups differed from one another enough to question construct similarity for several factors. These results highlight that more basic psychometric research is needed to better understand the BSQ in children with ASD.

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The authors would like to thank Dr. Lisa Wiggins for her helpful comments and invaluable insights while preparing this manuscript.


This research was supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Autism and Developmental Disabilities Research (CADDRE), Study to Explore Early Development through six cooperative agreements: Cooperative Agreement Number U10DD000180, Colorado Department of Public Health/University of Colorado School of Medicine; Cooperative Agreement Number U10DD000181, Kaiser Foundation Research Institute (CA); Cooperative Agreement Number U10DD000182, University of Pennsylvania; Cooperative Agreement Number U10DD000183, Johns Hopkins University; Cooperative Agreement Number U10DD000184, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and Cooperative Agreement Number U10DD000498, Michigan State University. Additional support came in part from core grants awarded to JFK Partners, the University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities at the University Colorado School of Medicine from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, through the Administration on Developmental Disabilities Grant #90DD0561. Support for Dr. Barger from 2013 to 2015 came from a policy research grant by the Disability Research and Dissemination Center at the University of South Carolina’s School of Medicine in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities Learn the Signs. Act Early.; support from 2015 to 2017 came in part from core grants awarded to Georgia State University’s Center for Leadership in Disability, through the Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities grant #90DD0662. The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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BB, EJM, SAR contributed to study concept. BB, CL performed statistical analysis. All authors participated in the study design and methods, conceived the statistical review and interpretation, contributed to manuscript preparation and/or review.

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Correspondence to Brian Barger.

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Barger, B., Moody, E.J., Ledbetter, C. et al. Temperament Similarities and Differences: A Comparison of Factor Structures from the Behavioral Style Questionnaire in Children with and Without Autism Spectrum Disorder. J Autism Dev Disord 49, 1749–1762 (2019).

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  • Autism
  • Temperament
  • Factor structure
  • Developmental disabilities