Mental health aspects of autistic spectrum disorders in children

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BackgroundPrevious studies have reported variable and at times opposite findings on comorbid psychiatric problems in children with autistic spectrum disorders (ASD).AimsThis study aimed to examine patterns of comorbid psychiatric problems in children with ASD and their parents compared with IQ matched controls and their parents.MethodsBehavioural/emotional problems were evaluated in a sample of children with ASD [a diagnosis of ASD was given if they met criteria for ASD on both of the ADI-R (Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised) and ADOS (Autism Diagnostic Observational Schedule)] and an age and IQ matched control group using the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL/6–18). Parental psychological distress for both groups was evaluated with the Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI).ResultsThere were 59 (88%) boys and 8 (12%) girls in the ASD group. Similarly, 57 (85%) of the control group were male and 10 (15%) were female. The groups did not differ significantly on mean age, mean IQ scores, gender and parents mean age. Results of the CBCL/6–18 revealed that the majority of parents reported their child with ASD as having either internalising (clinical range: 47.8%; borderline range: 16.4%) or externalising problems (clinical range: 10.4%; borderline range: 20.9%). In the control group more parents reported their children having externalising (clinical range: 46.3%; borderline range: 16.4%) than internalising problems (clinical range: 35.8%; borderline range: 11.9%). Almost a half of the ASD group met CBCL DSM criteria for clinically significant attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (44.78%) and anxiety (46.2%) problems. Based on the Brief Symptom Inventory Global Severity Index 22.4% of fathers and 23.8% of mothers of ASD children produced scores that were indicative of possible psychopathology.ConclusionsHigh rates of clinically significant psychiatric problems were detected in ASD children, with anxiety and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder being the most frequently detected syndromes.

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