Does Gender Affect Mood in Children and Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder?
Objectives: The present study investigated differences in mood between adolescents with ASD and their typically developing (TD) peers. The study also examined gender differences in the mood of adolescents with ASD. We hypothesised that adolescents with ASD would have more negative affect and less positive affect than TD adolescents. We also hypothesised females with ASD will have more negative affect than males with ASD and males with ASD will have lower positive affect than females with ASD.
Methods: We recruited 69 participants aged 10-20 years, comprising of 35 TD participants and 34 individuals independently assessed as having ASD. The study utilised the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS) to measure mood as positive and negative affect.
Results: Independent bootstrapped t-tests found no differences in affect between TD participants and those with ASD, or for positive affect across gender within ASD. Importantly though, despite the hypothesis, the study found that males with ASD had significantly more negative affect than females with ASD (Cohen’s d=0.85, p<.01).
Conclusions: An understanding of these gender differences in mood is needed to provide appropriate mental health services to those with ASD, and to understand what strengths may be present to better capitalize upon for those with ASD. This study recommends a focus on the communication challenges of males with ASD and how their friendship behaviours and coping strategies impact upon their negative affect levels in future research.