Investigating the Structure of the Autism-Spectrum Quotient Using Mokken Scaling

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Traits similar to those shown in autism spectrum condition (ASC) are apparent in relatives of individuals with ASC, and in the general population without necessarily meeting diagnostic criteria for an ASC. We assess whether the Autism-Spectrum Quotient (AQ), a self-report measure, has hierarchical properties using Mokken scaling. Hierarchical scales allow the presence of a latent trait to be identified by discovering whether and how many specific items form an ordered array along it. Data were collected from 2 groups: (1) people with ASC (n = 449: 240 males, 209 females, Mage 35.4 years, SD = 12.8) and (2) university students (n = 943: 465 males, 475 females, Mage = 23.0 years, SD = 8.4). A single Mokken scale was obtained in the data from university students and 3 scales were obtained in the data from people with ASC. The scales all showed moderate Mokken scaling properties with the single scale obtained from university students showing weak invariant item ordering and 2 of the scales from people with ASC showing weak invariant item ordering. The AQ formed reliable Mokken scales. There was a large overlap between the scale from the university student sample and the sample with ASC, with the first scale, relating to social interaction, being almost identical. The present study confirms the utility of the AQ as a single instrument that can dimensionalize autistic traits in both university student and clinical samples of ASC, and confirms that items of the AQ are consistently ordered relative to one another.

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