Category: Autism Spectrum and Developmental Disorders
Characteristics of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are commonly found in relatives of individuals with ASD compared to controls; researchers suggest that family members evince greater impairments in social-emotional skills, aloof personality traits, and restricted interests than individuals without affected family members (Gerdts & Bernier, 2011; Messinger et al., 2013). Studies on multiplex families also indicate higher rates of cognitive, language, social, and behavior impairments among affected siblings (Hallett et al., 2013; Micali, Chakrabarti, & Fombonne, 2004; Miller et al., 2015). In addition to ASD traits, family members have been found to display higher rates of psychopathology (Yirmiya & Shaked, 2005). Comorbid problems, including psychopathology, are common in individuals with ASD, such that about 70% of children with ASD meet criteria for at least one comorbid condition (Jang & Matson, 2015). As such, ASD is a risk factor for comorbid problems (Mannion & Leader, 2013; McCarthy et al., 2010). Although research on families of individuals with ASD has increased, studies directly comparing individuals with and without family history is limited, particularly in very young age groups. The current study aimed to examine the relationship between family history of ASD and comorbid problems in young children. Participants included 420 children (M=25.92, SD=5.10), who were divided into groups based on individual diagnosis (i.e., ASD or atypically developing) and family history (FH) of ASD. This resulted in four groups: ASD+FH (N=67), ASD+noFH (N=144), Atypical+FH (N=84), and Atypical+noFH (N=125). Participants were then compared on subscales of comorbid problems (i.e., tantrum/conduct problems, inattention/impulsivity, avoidance, anxiety/repetitive behaviors, eating and sleeping problems) on the BISCUIT-Part 2 using a series of one-way ANOVAs. Results showed significant differences between ASD and Atypical groups on each subscale, such that ASD groups were significantly more impaired on each subscale than Atypical groups. No significant difference was found between the Atypical groups on any subscale. No significant difference was found between the ASD groups, with the exception of the anxiety/repetitive behaviors subscale, F(3,416)=59.32, p < .01. Children with ASD and a family history were found to exhibit more anxious and repetitive behaviors (M=5.64, SD=3.85) than ASD children without a family history (M=3.83, SD=2.0). Findings indicate that family history of ASD may differentially influence the severity of anxious and repetitive behaviors in young children with ASD. Clinical implications of these results will be discussed.
Professor and Distinguished Research Master
Louisiana State University
Baton Rouge, Louisiana