Exploring Multiple Autisms through the Lens of Personality: A Latent Profile Analysis
Objectives: To identify meaningful, homogeneous personality subgroups that may be representative of autism subtypes in the ASD population.
Methods: The current study utilized data from a randomized, controlled trial comparing personalized cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to group CBT for school-aged youth with ASD (N=105). A latent profile analysis was conducted using the participants’ baseline personality measure scores (i.e., Hierarchical Personality Inventory for Children). A best-fitting model was determined by relative fit indices, including the Bayesian Information Criterion (BIC) and sample size-adjusted Bayesian Information Criterion (SS-BIC), as well as considerations for parsimony and interpretability. Concurrent validity was assessed by comparing the identified personality subgroups (i.e., classes) on measures of ASD symptomatology and comorbidities (SRS, CASI, CBCL) and measures of cognitive performance (WISC-IV, D-KEFS).
Results: A 4-class solution emerged as the best-fitting model with significant reductions in fit indices through four classes, while the 5-class solution presented an increase in BIC value. The additional class in the 5-class solution was deemed spurious given its similarity to another class and small class membership (representing less than 5% of the sample). The class with the largest membership (n=55) was characterized by low scores across all five personality factors. Another class (n=27) exhibited normative scores in Conscientiousness and Imagination, with low scores in Agreeableness, Extraversion, and Emotional Stability. The third class (n=14) presented very low Extraversion and Imagination scores, while the fourth class (n=9) presented high Imagination scores. The four classes were significantly different in SRS scores, as well as CASI and CBCL subscale scores and several WISC-IV and D-KEFS scores.
Conclusions: Results suggest that subgroups of children with ASD (IQ>70) seeking behavioral treatment may possess distinct personality profiles which may affect the autism symptom expression, severity level, cognitive features, and comorbid symptomatology which characterize them. Future research should determine the clinical significance of identified personality subgroups and whether or not they are identifiable on a neurobiological level as well.