Publication Date

2009-05-20

Availability

Open access

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)

Department

Psychology (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense

2008-06-06

First Committee Member

Sheri Johnson - Committee Member

Second Committee Member

Micheal Alessandri - Committee Member

Third Committee Member

Peter Mundy - Committee Member

Fourth Committee Member

Heather Henderson - Mentor

Fifth Committee Member

Marjorie Montague - Outside Committee Member

Abstract

Even among the most high-functioning individuals with autism, there is a wide range of variation in outcome. This study examined within-child factors, such as temperament, that contribute to variation in social outcomes, the most salient area of deficit among individuals with high-functioning autism (HFA). Approach/withdrawal tendencies and effortful control were used to predict variation in symptoms and social skills. A unique multi-method approach employing self- and parent-report measures, physiological assessment, and social observation was used to determine whether temperament could be used to predict variation in social skills and symptom presentation. Results indicated that compared with an age- and gender-matched control group, the HFA group self-reported higher levels of negative affect and lower levels of surgency and were observed to exhibit higher levels of approach tendencies and lower levels of social skills. Across all participants, higher levels of effortful control were predictive of more adaptive social skills and higher levels of observed approach behavior were predictive of higher levels of anxiety. These results are discussed in relation to the variability in outcomes seen among individuals with autism and the implications for the development of interventions to enhance adaptive outcomes.

Keywords

Treatment; Autism; Asperger Disorder; Autism Spectrum Disorders; Pervasive Developmental Disorder; Comorbidity

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