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Molecular Autism

, 5:19

First Online: 28 February 2014Received: 03 September 2013Accepted: 07 February 2014


BackgroundFour times as many males are diagnosed with high functioning autism compared to females. A growing body of research that focused on females with autism spectrum disorder ASD questions the assumption of gender invariance in ASD. Clinical observations suggest that females with ASD superficially demonstrate better social and emotional skills than males with ASD, which may camouflage other diagnostic features. This may explain the under-diagnosis of females with ASD.

MethodsWe hypothesised that females with ASD would display better social skills than males with ASD on a test of friendship and social function. One hundred and one 10- to 16-year-olds ASD females, n = 25; typically developing TD females, n = 25; ASD males, n = 25; TD males, n = 26 were interviewed using the friendship questionnaire FQ with high scores indicating the child has close, empathetic and supportive relationships. One parent of each child completed the FQ to assess whether there are differences in perception of friendships between parents and children.

ResultsIt was found that, independent of diagnosis, females demonstrated higher scores on the FQ than males. Further, regardless of gender, children with ASD demonstrated lower scores than TD children. Moreover, the effect of ASD was independent of gender. Interestingly, females with ASD and TD males displayed similar scores on the FQ.

ConclusionsThis finding is supported by clinical reports that females with ASD have more developed social skills than males with ASD. Further research is now required to examine the underlying causes for this phenomenon in order to develop gender-appropriate diagnostic criteria and interventions for ASD.

KeywordsAutism Female profile Friendship Social skills AbbreviationsASDautism spectrum disorder

FQfriendship questionnaire

IQintelligence quotient

TDtypically developing.

Electronic supplementary materialThe online version of this article doi:10.1186-2040-2392-5-19 contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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Autor: Alexandra M Head - Jane A McGillivray - Mark A Stokes


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