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12-04-2017 | Uitgave 2/2018

Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 2/2018

Coherence and content of relating emotions to life events in autism spectrum disorder and typical development: a cross-sectional age study

Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology > Uitgave 2/2018
Esther Ben-Itzchak, Michal Kirzon, Noa Peled, Ditza A. Zachor


Understanding one's own emotions is an important part of social-emotional development in early childhood. Few studies have looked at the ability of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to relate their own emotions to previous life events. Our previous study showed that the description of events that elicited specific emotions is qualitatively and quantitatively different in ASD in comparison to typically developing (TD) pre-adolescents. The current study evaluated differences in coherence and content of responses to questions on emotions in ASD and TD in two age groups. The evaluation was based on the section on Emotions of the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule Module 3 test. The study included 96 boys, 48 diagnosed with ASD (IQ≥85) and 48 TD children, divided into younger (6:0-8:0y) and older (8:2-11:0y) groups. Young TD children were able to give coherent responses to questions on experiences that evoked basic emotions. Children with ASD gave fewer coherent responses and more 'no response' and 'odd' responses across the examined age range. Only in the TD group was the level of vocabulary associated with the number of coherent statements. TD children gave more responses with content related to interpersonal relationships, self-awareness and social events than children with ASD. Deficits in coherence and content of responses to questions on emotions related to previous life events derive from the core deficits of ASD. The significant quantitative and qualitative gap that exists between ASD and TD may be useful during the diagnostic process of ASD in childhood.

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