Aging and Autism Spectrum Disorder: Evidence from the Broad Autism Phenotype

Wallace, Gregory L.; Budgett, Jessica and Charlton, Rebecca A. 2016. Aging and Autism Spectrum Disorder: Evidence from the Broad Autism Phenotype. Autism Research, 9(12), pp. 1294-1303. ISSN 1939-3792 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

This study investigated for the first time the Broad Autism Phenotype (BAP) in the context of older adulthood and its associations with real world executive function, social support, and both depression and anxiety symptomatology. Based on self-ratings of autistic traits, 66 older adults (60+ years old, range=61-88) were split into BAP (n=20) and control (n=46) groups. Individuals in the BAP group, even after controlling for age, education level, sex, and health problems, exhibited more real world executive function problems in multiple domains, reported lower levels of social support, and self-rated increased depression and anxiety symptomatology compared to the control group. Regression analysis revealed that level of social support was the strongest predictor of BAP traits across both groups, although real world executive function problems and depression symptomatology were also significant predictors. Moreover, when predicting anxiety and depression symptomatology, BAP traits were the strongest predictors above and beyond the effects of demographic factors, real world executive function problems, and social support levels. These findings suggest that the BAP in older adulthood imparts additional risks to areas of functioning that are known to be crucial to aging-related outcomes in the context of typical development. These results might in turn inform aging in autism spectrum disorder, which has been largely unexplored to date.

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broad autism phenotype; autism; aging; older adulthood; executive function; anxiety; depression; social support

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11 March 2016Published Online
1 December 2016Published

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Date Deposited:

11 Mar 2016 16:52

Last Modified:

29 Apr 2020 16:14

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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