Exploring Personality in Children with ASD: Correlations Between Observed, Self-Report, and Parent-Report Measures

Friday, May 13, 2016: 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Hall A (Baltimore Convention Center)
A. R. Osuna1, D. Delgadillo1 and J. J. Wood2, (1)University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, (2)University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
Background:  While personality is a widely accepted framework used to study behavior in typical populations, studying personality in those with ASD is a relatively novel focus. A few studies have indicated that adults self-report behaviors low in openness to experience and extraversion (Anckarsäter et al., 2006), and high in neuroticism (Kanai et al., 2011). In a parent-report study of children aged three to five years, Fortenberry et al. (2011) found that children with ASD scored lower in extraversion, conscientiousness, and openness to experience than those typically developing. There are two significant gaps in this literature. First, studies in this subfield have relied solely on parent- and self-report measures. Secondly, the subjects of ASD personality research are typically adults with the disorder. The present study addresses these gaps by looking at school-aged children and supplementing self- and parent-report measures with an observational approach.

Objectives:  The purpose of this study was to: 1) Test a novel observational approach to evaluating personality in children with ASD using the ADOS; and 2) Correlate observational scores, self-reports, and parent-reports of the child’s personality.

Methods:  The personalities of 43 school-aged children (6 to 13 years) with ASD were examined. Participants completed Module 3 of the ADOS, which was then assessed for personality using a novel observational personality coding scheme (OPS). The OPS looked at the following personality factors: openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, neuroticism, and intelligence. Children self-reported personality using the Big Five Questionnaire for Children (BFQ-C), while parents rated their child’s personality using the Hierarchical Personality Inventory for children (HiPIC). 

Results:  Each of the six OPS personality factors consisted of four or five observable items that yielded reliable internal consistencies (α > .650). The OPS and HiPIC significantly correlated within the domains of extraversion and emotional stability, r(35) = .351, p < .05. Observed extraversion was significantly negatively correlated with agreeableness, r(35) = -.549, p < .01, and conscientiousness , r(35) = -.409, p < .05. Furthermore, observed openness to experience was significantly correlated with agreeableness, r(35) = -.423, p < .01 and observed conscientiousness was marginally significantly correlated with agreeableness , r(35) = -.316, p = .057. BFQ-C scores did not significantly correlate with any corresponding factor on the OPS or HiPIC.

Conclusions: Our results indicate that the ADOS may be a valuable source of information in regard to assessing the personality of children with ASD. Furthermore, discrepancies between measures on corresponding factors infer that it can be problematic to rely on a single questionnaire. Personality offers an additional lens of evaluating the heterogeneous behavior of children with ASD that is traditionally underutilized. Our forthcoming work will look at psychopathology scores in order to cross-validate the OPS measure. Future research should expand on this work and further explore the personality of individuals with ASD.