Behavioral Inhibition and Activation As a Modifier Process in Youth with ASD

Thursday, May 11, 2017: 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Golden Gate Ballroom (Marriott Marquis Hotel)
H. K. Schiltz1, A. J. McVey1, A. D. Haendel2, B. Dolan1, K. A. Willar3, S. Stevens4, A. M. Carson5, F. Mata-Greve1, E. Vogt1 and A. V. Van Hecke6, (1)Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI, (2)Interdisciplinary (Speech--Language Pathology & Psychology), Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI, (3)Children's Hospital Colorado, Aurora, CO, (4)University of Minnesota Medical School, Blaine, MN, (5)Baylor College of Medicine/Texas Children's Hospital, Houston, TX, (6)Psychology, Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI
Background: The Modifier Model of ASD suggests that phenotypic variability in ASD may stem from non-syndrome specific psychological processes. One such process involves motivational biases, namely the Behavioral Inhibition System (BIS) and Behavioral Activation System (BAS). The BIS/BAS may not only contribute to core features of ASD, but these motivational systems have also been associated with vulnerability for emotional and behavioral difficulties in typically developing samples, which are also common co-occurring concerns among individuals with ASD. However, it remains unclear in what capacity BIS/BAS related motivation, as measured by a self-reported questionnaire, relates to ASD symptomology and co-occurring emotional and behavioral challenges in adolescents with ASD.

Objectives: This study aims to address the aforementioned gap in the literature by examining the relation between reports of behavioral inhibition and activtion, ASD Symptomology, and co-occurring emotional and behavioral symptoms in adolescents with ASD.

Methods: Forty-eight adolescents (Age: M=13.36, SD=1.37; IQ: 105.25, SD=18.21) with ASD participated in this study. One outlier was excluded from analyses. ASD was confirmed using the ADOS. Participants provided self-report on the BIS/BAS Scales and Youth Self-Report (YSR). Parents completed the Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ) and the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) on their adolescent.

Results: Pearson’s correlations revealed a significant negative association between the AQ total score and BAS Drive scale (r=-0.33, p=0.03). For the YSR, the BIS scale was positively related to the Anxious/Depressed (r= 0.45, p=0.001), Internalizing Problems (r=0.27, p=0.07), Anxiety Problems (r=0.40, p=0.005), Somatic Problems (r=0.31, p=0.03), Obsessive Compulsive Problems (r=0.38, p=0.008), and Post-Traumatic Stress Problems (r=0.45, p=0.002) subscales. The BAS Drive scale was positively related to the Withdrawn/Depressed YSR subscale (r=0.29, p=0.04). The BAS Fun-Seeking (r=0.36, p=0.02) and Reward Responding scales (r=0.37, p=0.01) were positively related to the Positive Qualities YSR subscale. For the CBCL, the BAS Fun-Seeking scale was negatively related to the Externalizing Problems (r=-.31, p=0.04), Withdrawn/Depressed (r=-0.29, p=0.05) and Somatic Problems (r=-0.30, p=0.04) subscales.

Conclusions: Overall, this study suggests that the BAS may be more salient for ASD-related symptoms, while the BIS appears to play a key role in co-occurring internalizing symptomology in adolescents with ASD. The BAS systems may modify the expression of ASD, such that less BAS Drive-related motivation was related to greater overall ASD symptom presentation. In regards to co-occurring symptoms, self-report on the YSR suggests that a greater tendency for BI may pose vulnerability for developing internalizing symptomology. The positive association between the BAS Drive and Withdrawn/Depressed might reflect that adolescents who have ASD and are more inclined to approach situations have more opportunities to experience social failure, which may trigger depressive symptoms. Parent-report revealed limited findings, potentially due the inherent imprecision of measuring internalizing symptomology as outside observers. Greater Fun-Seeking behavior was associated with a combination of less Withdrawn/Depressed and Externalizing problems. Perhaps, approach towards enjoyable experience (fun-seeking) is protective against displaying aggression and rule-breaking in youth with ASD.