Social perspective taking and empathy in children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders

Sara A. Stevens, Joanna Dudek, Kelly Nash, Gideon Koren, Joanne Rovet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations

Abstract

Children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) show sociobehavioral impairments; however, the social cognitive profile contributing to these impairments is poorly understood. This study compared social perspective taking and empathy in children with FASD versus typically developing controls (TDC). Thirty-seven children with FASD and 21 TDC participated. Measures included parent-rated CBCL and SSIS, and NEPSY-II Theory of Mind, Test of Social Cognition and Index of Empathy. Parents rated the FASD group higher than TDC on indices of behavior problems and lower on indices of social skills and empathy. Children with FASD scored significantly below TDC on tasks requiring complex social cognition. The majority of correlations between social cognition and parent-ratings were not significant in FASD and TDC, with the exception of a negative correlation between self-reported empathy and parent-rated behavior difficulties in TDC. FASD subgroup analyses revealed lower theory of mind and empathy scores among children with ARND than pFAS/FAS. With regard to sex, males with FASD were rated as having more behavior difficulties than females, whereas TDC females obtained higher empathy ratings than males. In both groups, females scored higher on theory of mind and empathy indices. On theory of mind tasks, older children with FASD performed below younger, whereas younger TDC children performed more poorly than older. Children with FASD show reduced functioning on indices of sociobehavioral and social cognition, and the effects are influenced by sex and age. These findings provide insight into the clinical and social profile of children with FASD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)74-84
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of the International Neuropsychological Society
Volume21
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 12 Nov 2015
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • ARND
  • Behavior
  • Empathy
  • FASD
  • Social perspective taking
  • Social skills

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