Empathizing, systemizing, empathizing-systemizing difference and their association with autistic traits in children with autism spectrum disorder, with and without intellectual disability

Ning Pan, Bonnie Auyeung, Xin Wang, Li Zi Lin, Hai Lin Li, Xiao Ling Zhan, Cheng Kai Jin, Jin Jing*, Xiu Hong Li

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Empathizing, systemizing, and empathizing-systemizing difference can be linked to autistic traits in the general adult population and those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), but these profiles and associations remain unclear in children with ASD, with and without intellectual disability (ASD + ID; ASD-noID). We recruited three groups including 160 boys with ASD (73 ASD + ID; 87 ASD-noID) and 99 typically developing (TD) boys (6–12 years). We measured empathizing, systemizing, and empathizing-systemizing difference using the parent-reported child Empathy and Systemizing Quotient (EQ-C/SQ-C). We measured autistic traits using the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS). Among the three groups, children with ASD + ID and ASD-noID scored lower on the EQ-C and SQ-C than TD children (all p < 0.001). There was no difference in the EQ-C between children with ASD + ID and ASD-noID (16.59 ± 5.53 vs. 16.23 ± 5.85, p = 0.973), and the difference in the SQ-C attenuated to null when adjusting for intelligence between children with ASD-noID and TD children (18.89 ± 7.80 vs. 24.15 ± 6.73, p = 0.089). Children with ASD + ID scored higher on empathizing-systemizing difference than TD children but lower than children with ASD-noID (all p < 0.05). Negative associations between EQ-C and all autistic traits, null associations between SQ-C and all autistic traits, and positive associations between empathizing-systemizing difference and all autistic traits were found in all groups. We observed differences in empathizing, systemizing, and empathizing-systemizing difference and the consistency of their associations with autistic traits among the three groups. Our findings provide implication that behavioral interventions of ASD should consider the balance of empathizing and systemizing. Lay Summary: We examined the profiles of empathizing, systemizing, and empathizing-systemizing difference in children with autism spectrum disorder, with and without intellectual disability (ASD + ID; ASD-noID), and typically developing (TD) children aged 6–12 years. We observed differences in these profiles and the consistency of their associations with autistic traits among the three groups. Empathizing and empathizing-systemizing difference, rather than systemizing, were associated with autistic traits within the three groups. Our findings provide implication that behavioral interventions of ASD should consider these imbalance profiles.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1348-1357
JournalAutism Research
Volume15
Issue number7
Early online date19 Jun 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • autism spectrum disorder
  • empathy
  • intellectual disability
  • systemizing

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Empathizing, systemizing, empathizing-systemizing difference and their association with autistic traits in children with autism spectrum disorder, with and without intellectual disability'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this