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Age-related differences in the prevalence and correlates of anxiety in youth with autism spectrum disorders

TitleAge-related differences in the prevalence and correlates of anxiety in youth with autism spectrum disorders
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsVasa, RA, Kalb, LG, Mazurek, MO, Kanne, SM, Freedman, B, Keefer, A, Clemons, TE, Murray, DS
JournalResearch in Autism Spectrum Disorders

Lead Author
Roma A Vasa

Study Aims and Objectives
To determine the prevalence of anxiety and other co-occurring psychiatric diagnoses across several age groups of children and adolescents with ASD.

Methods- Sample, Procedure, Study Measures, Analysis
1,316 participants from 15 Autism Treatment Network sites across the US and Canada were enrolled in the study. Participants were broken into three age categories: 0-6, 7-11, and 12-17 years old. Intelligence, cognitive functioning, and ASD severity were collected for each participant. Anxiety and other psychiatric conditions were measured using the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) DSM Scales including Anxiety Problems, Affective Problems, Pervasive Developmental (PDD) Problems, Oppositional Defiant (ODD) Problems, and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactive (ADHD) Problems.

Results- Main Findings
Average levels of anxiety for all age groups of children with ASD were significantly higher than anxiety levels in the normative population. Children with ASD from older age groups showed higher rates of anxiety than those in younger groups. Children in the 0-6 year old group had higher rates of ODD, those in the 7-11 group showed higher rates of somatic problems, and children in the 12-17 age group showed higher ADHD symptom rates.

Conclusion- Summary Statement
Understanding the prevalence of anxiety within different age groups of the pediatric ASD population is critical to provide the best physical and psychological care. Children who deal with anxiety and related psychological disorders often struggle socially and may be more likely to externalize their behaviors. More work should be done to understand the longitudinal relationship between anxiety, other psychiatric conditions, and ASD in the pediatric population.