Depression and anxiety in children with High-Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorders: Examination of clinical symptoms, assessment methods and source differences
Chow, Sabrina Y.
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Children with High-Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorders (HFASDs) are reportedly at-risk for depression and anxiety. Despite concerns involving the degree to which children with HFASDs are capable of identifying and expressing their own feelings, little research has been conducted examining source differences (child self-report versus parent report) or measurement method differences (rating scale versus clinical interview) in assessing depression and anxiety in this population. The present study compared 32 children with HFASDs and their parents to 32 non-disabled matched controls and their parents using child self-reports and parent reports, as well as ratings scales and clinical interviews. For depression, results revealed that parents of children with HFASDs reported a significantly higher overall level of depressive symptoms in their children on a rating scale as compared to their children's self-reports and the non-disabled matched control group and their parents. Though non-significant ( p = .054), parents of children with HFASDs and their children both reported a higher number of depressive symptoms on the clinical interview as compared to the children and parents in the non-disabled matched control group. For anxiety, there was no significant difference between children with HFASDs and their parents' ratings as compared to the non-disabled matched control group and their parents when using the rating scales, but a significant difference was noted between conditions when utilizing the clinical interview. Specifically, children with HFASDs and their parents both reported significantly more anxiety symptoms and a significantly higher frequency of cases meeting diagnostic criteria for an anxiety disorder on the clinical interview compared to the non-disabled matched control group and their parents. Clinical implications, strengths and limitations, and areas in need of future research are discussed.