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12-03-2018 | Uitgave 7/2018 Open Access

Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 7/2018

Reduced Alternating Gaze During Social Interaction in Infancy is Associated with Elevated Symptoms of Autism in Toddlerhood

Tijdschrift:
Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology > Uitgave 7/2018
Auteurs:
Emilia Thorup, Pär Nyström, Gustaf Gredebäck, Sven Bölte, Terje Falck-Ytter, the EASE Team

Abstract

In typical development, infants often alternate their gaze between their interaction partners and interesting stimuli, increasing the probability of joint attention toward surrounding objects and creating opportunities for communication and learning. Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have been found to engage less in behaviors that can initiate joint attention compared to typically developing children, but the role of such atypicalities in the development of ASD during infancy is not fully understood. Here, using eye tracking technology in a live setting, we show that 10-month-olds at high familial risk for ASD engage less in alternating gaze during interaction with an adult compared to low risk infants. These differences could not be explained by low general social preference or slow visual disengagement, as the groups performed similarly in these respects. We also found that less alternating gaze at 10 months was associated with more social ASD symptoms and less showing and pointing at 18 months. These relations were similar in both the high risk and the low risk groups, and remained when controlling for general social preference and disengagement latencies. This study shows that atypicalities in alternating gaze in infants at high risk for ASD emerge already during the first 10 months of life - a finding with theoretical as well as potential practical implications.

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