British Journal of Clinical Psychology

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Volume 50 Issue 3 (September 2011), Pages 223-338

An investigation into the relationship between eating disorder psychopathology and autistic symptomatology in a non‐clinical sample (pages 326-338)

Objective. Female adults with a diagnosis of anorexia nervosa (AN) have been found to score higher than healthy controls on a questionnaire that measures characteristics associated with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). This research investigated the relationship between eating disorder (ED) and ASD symptomatology in a non‐clinical sample, with an additional focus on prenatal testosterone (pT) levels.

Design. A cross‐sectional research design was used. The selected age group of both males and females allowed for a focus on early onset of ED symptomatology in both sexes.

Methods. Self‐reported questionnaire data from the Eating Attitudes Test (EAT‐26) and the Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ) were collected from 132 schoolchildren (61 boys, 71 girls) aged 11 to 14, with no recorded psychiatric diagnoses. Digit ratio (2D:4D) measures to index levels of pT exposure were also obtained.

Results. A significant relationship between levels of ED symptomatology and ASD symptomatology was identified. Particularly strong relationships were identified between the EAT‐26 and the attention to detail and communication subscales of the AQ. Few relationships were found for digit ratios.

Conclusion. The results extend previous research from a sample with a diagnosis of AN to a non‐clinical population. Those registering higher levels of ED symptomatology also reported higher levels of attention to detail and communication difficulties associated with ASD.

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