The Gap Between Cognition and Adaptive Behavior in Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Implications for Social Anxiety and the Moderating Effect of Autism Traits

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Abstract

The gap between cognitive ability and adaptive behavior has been thought to enhance psychopathology among people with autism, particularly among those without intellectual disability. We examined this association by exploring the gap between cognitive understanding of social behavior and socially adaptive behavior, and its impact on social anxiety symptoms, obsessive–compulsive symptoms, and depressive symptoms, among 53 university students with autism (without intellectual disability). A higher cognition—social adaptation discrepancy was associated with more social anxiety, but this effect was moderated by autistic trait (AT) levels; a greater gap was associated with more avoidance symptoms of social anxiety only among students with high AT. Cognitive flexibility and prosocial behavior may mitigate the effects of AT. Potential implications and interventions are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1466-1478
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Autism and Developmental Disorders
Volume51
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2021

Keywords

  • Adaptive behavior
  • Autism
  • Autism traits
  • Cognitive ability
  • Social anxiety

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