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Aggression in children and adolescents with ASD: prevalence and risk factors

TitleAggression in children and adolescents with ASD: prevalence and risk factors
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsKanne, SM, Mazurek, MO
JournalJournal of Autism and Developmental Disorders
Date PublishedJul
ISBN Number1573-3432; 0162-3257
KeywordsAdolescent, Aggression/psychology, Child, Child Behavior/psychology, Child Development Disorders, Female, Humans, Intelligence, Male, Pervasive/epidemiology/psychology, Preschool, Prevalence, Risk Factors

The prevalence of and risk factors for aggression were examined in 1,380 children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Prevalence was high, with parents reporting that 68% had demonstrated aggression to a caregiver and 49% to non-caregivers. Overall, aggression was not associated with clinician observed severity of ASD symptoms, intellectual functioning, gender, marital status, parental educational level, or aspects of communication. Individuals who are younger, come from a higher income family, have more parent reported social/communication problems, or engage in repetitive behaviors were more likely to demonstrate aggression. Given the significant impact of aggression on individual and family outcomes, it is hoped that this knowledge will inform more targeted intervention efforts.


Lead Author
Stephen M. Kanne

Study Aims and Objectives
This paper aims to study the risk factors and presence of aggression in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Methods- Sample, Procedure, Study Measures, Analysis
The study sample included 1380 children between the ages of 4-17 from the Simons Simplex Collection, which is a large, multi-site research study that includes families with one child with an ASD diagnosis. The children were given the Autism Diagnostic Interview and the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule to determine ASD diagnosis and severity. Information was gathered about participants’ adaptive functioning, IQ level, and receptive language abilities. Parents filled out questionnaires related to social responsiveness, repetitive behaviors, and demographics. Aggression was measured through parent reporting on the Child Behavior Checklist.

Results- Main Findings
Of 1380 the participants, 68% were shown to exhibit aggressive behaviors either currently or in the past. 56% of parents noted that their children were currently expressing aggressive behaviors toward caregivers, and 32% reported current aggression toward others. Aggression was equally common between genders and did not depend on parental education level or marital status. Language ability and intellectual functioning were also not found to influence aggression levels. Aggression was more common among younger participants and among those who exhibit repetitive behaviors. Children from higher income households were also shown to be more aggressive, a finding which was surprising to the authors and warrants further investigation.

Conclusion- Summary Statement
While there are high rates of aggression among children and adolescents with ASD, little is known about the cause of aggressive behaviors in this specific population. More research must be done to better understand the mechanisms of aggression and inform targeted intervention methods.

PubMed ID20960041