Social functioning and the presentation of anxiety in children on the autism spectrum: A multimethod, multiinformant analysis

Michelle Hunsche, Matti Cervin, Eric A Storch, Philip C. Kendall, Jeffrey Wood, Connor Kerns

Forskningsoutput: TidskriftsbidragArtikel i vetenskaplig tidskriftPeer review


Co-occurring anxiety in children on the autism spectrum is associated with greater social challenges, including poorer social skills and relationships, which may influence the severity and presentation of anxiety symptoms, particularly social anxiety. The current study used Bayesian network analytics (Williams & Mulder, 2020) and a multimethod approach to examine (a) how different facets of social functioning relate to one another and to anxiety severity and comorbidity, (b) which facet(s) are most influential and thus may represent optimal targets for intervention, and (c) how social functioning relates to the presentation of social fears in a large treatment-seeking sample of autistic children with anxiety disorders (n = 191, 7–13 years). Results indicated strong associations among measures of social ability (i.e., theory of mind [ToM], social motivation, friendship attainment) and among measures of social integration (i.e., bullying, interpersonal and peer difficulties), with only bullying demonstrating a significant association with anxiety. ToM was the most interconnected variable in the network, and social motivation demonstrated the strongest individual connections with other variables, particularly with other facets of social ability. Socially anxious children with impaired ToM were less likely to express fears of negative evaluation, resulting in a distinct diagnostic presentation of social fears. Findings suggest that social motivation and ToM may represent important targets for intervention for autistic children with co-occurring anxiety. Further, social–cognitive difficulties associated with autism, like ToM, may play a role in distinct manifestations of anxiety in these youth.
Sidor (från-till)198-208
TidskriftJournal of Abnormal Psychology
StatusPublished - 2022

Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ)

  • Psykiatri


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