Objectives: The present study seeks to examine the relationship between self-reported empathy and caregiver-reported social responsiveness in young adults with ASD. It is hypothesized that young adult self-reported empathic social understanding would be correlated with caregiver-reported social responsiveness in young adults with ASD.
Methods: Participants included 39 young adults between 18-27 years of age (M=20.5, SD=2.20) presenting for social skills treatment through the UCLA PEERS® for Young Adults intervention. In order to understand the relationship between empathy and social responsiveness, baseline assessments of young adult self-perceived empathy were measured using the Empathy Quotient (EQ; Baron-Cohen and Wheelwright, 2004), while caregiver-reported perceptions of young adult social responsiveness were measured using the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS; Constantino, 2005). To examine the relationship between empathic social understanding and social responsiveness, baseline scores of the Social Skills Subscale of the EQ were correlated with both the Total Score and Subscale Scores of the SRS using Pearson correlations.
Results: Preliminary results reveal that greater impairment on the SRS Social Communication Subscale is significantly correlated with less empathic social understanding on the EQ Social Skills Subscale (p<.05). In addition, greater impairments on the SRS Total Score and Social Motivation Subscale are associated with less empathic social understanding on the EQ Social Skills Subscale at a trend level (p<.10).
Conclusions: Preliminary findings suggest a strong relationship between empathic social understanding and social responsiveness in young adults with ASD. In particular, deficient social communication abilities appear to be associated with diminished empathy. While the relationship between empathy and social functioning has been examined extensively among children and adolescents, the present study is only one of a few investigating this relationship among young adults with ASD.
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