Examining the Relationship Between Gender, Age, Anxiety and Aggression in Children with ASD Using the Child Behavior Checklist

Saturday, May 14, 2016: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Hall A (Baltimore Convention Center)
A. K. Walsh, K. Derochea, D. Peterson and E. Hanson, Developmental Medicine Center, Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, MA
Background:  Because it is frequently noted that aggressive behavior and anxiety problems are often seen in children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and that these problems can have extremely negative consequences (Farmer, 2011; Kerns 2012), further examination is needed to fully understand the prevalence of anxiety and aggression in ASD at different ages and between genders. The Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) is a widely used quantitative assessment that measures a child’s mental health that includes levels of anxiety problems and aggressive behavior. This present study examines the relationship between age, aggression and anxiety; gender, aggression and anxiety as well as the correlation between aggression and anxiety in children with ASD. 

Objectives:  N/A

Methods:  A sample of 843 children (69.5% male) with an ASD diagnosis who also met research criteria for ASD were examined. Participants’ ages ranged from 22 months to 226 months (Mean= 102.5, SD= 43.8). CBCLs were examined with focus on Aggressive Behavior totals and Anxious/Depressed totals. Correlations between age and anxiety, age and aggression, gender and anxiety, gender and aggression, and aggression and anxiety were examined using Pearson Correlation in SPSS. 

Results:  Pearson Correlations were run using SPSS and measured relationships between age and anxiety, age and aggression, gender and anxiety, gender and aggression, and aggression and anxiety. Preliminary analyses indicated that there was no significant relationship between gender and anxiety (r=-.025, p-value=.474) or gender and aggression (r=-.067, p-value=.053). However, there was a positive, significant correlation between anxiety and age (r=.230, p-value≤.000) and between anxiety and aggression (r=.365, p-value≤.000). Analyses also suggested a significant negative correlation between age and aggression (r=-.318, p-value≤.000). 

Conclusions:  Results suggest that a strong, positive relationship between anxiety and age as well as between anxiety and aggression exists, while a strong negative relationship exists between age and aggression. Future research is needed to explore and further confirm these findings.  Longitudinal data should also be examined to explore correlations within an individual’s lifespan.  Further research could also examine the relationship between rates of aggression and anxiety in children receiving appropriate therapies.