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Internalizing Problems in Children with ASD

Saturday, 4 May 2013: 09:00-13:00
Banquet Hall (Kursaal Centre)
J. A. de Ruiter1, M. de Bruine1, L. B. Pouw1, E. Broekhof1, L. Stockmann2, K. Gadow3 and C. Rieffe1, (1)Leiden University, Leiden, Netherlands, (2)Centrum Autisme Rivierduinen, Leiden, Netherlands, (3)State University of New York, Stony Brook, NY
Background: Over the last couple of years, cross-sectional studies have demonstrated that Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are associated with internalizing problems. This is strongly linked to certain aspects of emotion regulation, such as coping strategies, and impaired social skills and negative experiences with peers.

Objectives: The aim of this study is to examine the extent to which aspects of emotion regulation and social functioning are related to symptoms of depression in children with ASD. Since a cross-sectional study is limited in addressing the pathways or processes that lead to these symptoms of depression, longitudinal analyses will also be conducted which might discover causal relationships.

Methods: The study included 120 high functioning boys (63 with ASD, 57 TD, mean age 139 months), who filled out self-report questionnaires on depression, coping strategies (problem solving, seeking social support, externalizing, internalizing, distraction, and trivializing) and social functioning (victimization and negative friendships).

Maladaptive coping positively predicted symptoms of depression in boys with ASD. Independently of coping strategies, victimization and negative friendship interactions also positively predicted symptoms of depression.

Conclusions: This study shows that boys with ASD who use avoidant and maladaptive coping strategies, experienced higher levels of depression. Furthermore, being bullied or having low quality friendships also uniquely contributes to symptoms of depression in boys with ASD. By conducting longitudinal analyses, it might be possible to identify with certainty factors that contribute to the development of depression. This is helpful since it could lead to indicating potential targets for intervention with the possibility of preventing later-onset mental health concerns.

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