Alexithymia and Autistic Traits as Contributing Factors to Empathy Difficulties in Preadolescent Children

Lydia Gabriela Speyer, Ruth Harriet Brown, Lorna Camus, Aja Louise Murray, Bonnie Auyeung

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Abstract

Recent evidence suggests that, contrary to traditional views, empathy difficulties may not be a core feature of autism; but are rather due to co-occurring alexithymia. Empathy, alexithymia and autistic traits have yet to be examined concurrently in children. Therefore, we examined the co-occurrence of empathy difficulties and alexithymia in 59 typically developing and 5 autistic children. Multiple measures (self-report, parent-report and a behavioural task) were used to evaluate empathy and to assess differences in self- and parent-reports using multiple regressions. Alexithymia was found to predict empathy significantly better than autistic traits, providing support for the alexithymia hypothesis. From a therapeutic perspective, results suggest autistic children who screen positive for elevated alexithymic traits may benefit from additional support targeting emotion identification.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Autism and Developmental Disorders
Early online date31 Mar 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 31 Mar 2021

Keywords

  • Alexithymia
  • Autistic Traits
  • Children
  • Empathy
  • Multi-Informant Approach

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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