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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
42 Downloads (Pure)

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
Pages (from-to)823–834
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Autism and Developmental Disorders
Volume52
Early online date31 Mar 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022

Keywords

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

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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