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Language and Aggressive Behaviors in Male and Female Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Abstract

Aggressive behaviors are common among youth with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and correlate with pervasive social-emotional difficulties. Communication skill is an important correlate of disruptive behavior in typical development, and clarification of links between communication and aggression in ASD may inform intervention methods. We investigate child/family factors and communication in relation to aggression among 145 individuals with ASD (65 female; ages 8–17 years). Overall, more severe aggression was associated with younger age, lower family income, and difficulties with communication skills. However, this pattern of results was driven by males, and aggression was unrelated to child or family characteristics for females. Future work should incorporate these predictors in conjunction with broader contextual factors to understand aggressive behavior in females with ASD.

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Acknowledgements

We wish to thank the families, parents and children, who participated in the GENDAAR study at our four data collection sites. The ACE GENDAAR Consortium additionally includes contributions from Katy Ankenman (Seattle Children’s Research Institute; current University of California San Francisco), Erin Libsack (Seattle Children’s Research Institute; current Stony Brook University), Nadine Gaab (Boston Children’s Hospital), Daniel Geschwind (UCLA), Désirée Lussier (Seattle Children’s Research Institute, current University de Montreal), Abha Gupta (Yale University), Zack Jacokes (University of Southern California; current University of Virginia), Jennifer Lowe (UCLA), Nicole McDonald (UCLA), Adam Naples (Yale University), Charles A. Nelson (Boston Children’s Hospital), Matthew State (University of California San Francisco), Catherine M. Sullivan (Yale University), Carinna M. Torgenson (University of Southern California), Pamela Ventola (Yale University), Julie Wolf (Yale University). At time of data collection for this project, Pelphrey and Jack were at Yale University; Van Horn was at University of Southern California. Bernier is now at Apple.

Funding

Funding was provided by the NIMH R01 MH10028 ACE Network (Pelphrey) and Autism Speaks (Neuhaus).

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Contributions

EN, VYK and AK processed data collection, data analysis, manuscript draft, revision, and final approval. SC processed data collection, manuscript revision and final approval. EA processed study conceptualization, manuscript revision and final approval. RB processed study conceptualization, data collection, manuscript revision and final approval. SB processed study conceptualization, manuscript revision and final approval. MD processed study conceptualization, manuscript revision and final approval. AJ processed data collection, study conceptualization, manuscript revision and final approval. SJ processed study conceptualization, manuscript revision and final approval. JM processed study conceptualization, data collection, manuscript revision and final approval. JDVH processed study conceptualization, data curation, manuscript revision and final approval. KP processed study conceptualization, data collection, manuscript revision and final approval. SJW processed study conceptualization, data collection, data analysis, manuscript draft, revision, and final approval.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Sara Jane Webb.

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Conflict of interest

The authors report no affiliations with or involvement in any organization or entity with any financial interest in the outcome of this project. McPartland has received funding from Janssen Research and Development, receives book Royalties from Guilford, Springer, and Lambert Press, and is a consultant with Blackthorn Therapeutics. Jeste is a consultant with Roche Pharmaceuticals.

Ethical Approval

Ethical oversight was provided by the Yale Institutional Board (Yale, SCRI), the UCLA Office of Human Research Protection Program (UCLA), Boston Children’s Hospital Institutional Review Board (BCH), and USC Office for the Protection of Research Subjects. All procedures performed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all parents of children participating in the study; children provided written assent.

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Neuhaus, E., Kang, V.Y., Kresse, A. et al. Language and Aggressive Behaviors in Male and Female Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder. J Autism Dev Disord 52, 454–462 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-020-04773-0

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-020-04773-0

Keywords

  • Language
  • Communication
  • Aggression
  • Externalizing behaviors
  • Autism
  • ASD
  • Sex differences
  • Gender