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Affective Experiences in Adolescents with Autism: An EMA Study

Rump, Keiran May (2011) Affective Experiences in Adolescents with Autism: An EMA Study. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Clinical consensus and a limited number of empirical studies indicate that the understanding, awareness, and expression of personal emotional experiences are atypical in individuals with autism; however, the exact nature and magnitude of the atypicality is unclear. The purpose of the current study was to gain a better understanding of how individuals with autism understand and describe their own emotional experiences. This study measured affective awareness and understanding in both the laboratory setting, and in the individual's natural environment using ecological momentary assessment. Nineteen individuals with autism (11-17 years old) and 19 typically developing controls, matched on age and IQ, completed an in-lab task asking them to describe causes of their emotions in addition to self-report measures of depression, anxiety, social skills, and alexithymia. Their parents completed corresponding parent-report forms. Following the lab visit, participants were contacted via cell phone for 14 consecutive days and were asked to rate a subset of emotions from the PANAS-C. Corresponding parent reports were collected for a random subset of these days. Results indicated that on the lab-based measure, the individuals with autism, in contrast to controls, had significantly more difficulty describing appropriate causal contexts for their self-conscious emotions. When reporting on their daily levels of affect, the individuals with autism, in contrast to controls, reported higher intensity negative affect and more lability in positive and negative affect. In comparison to parent report, there was some suggestion that the individuals with autism, but not controls, were underreporting the intensity of their negative affect. For both groups, intensity and lability of negative affect were related to self-reported depression symptoms, but not to parent reports of child depression or self- or parent-reported anxiety symptoms. In addition, no measures of affective awareness and understanding were related to child or parent reported social skills. The current findings suggest that in adolescence, the manner in which individuals with autism understand, experience, and report on their emotional experiences differs from their typically developing peers in subtle yet notable ways. Potential mechanisms underlying these differences are discussed, and a number of future directions are suggested.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Rump, Keiran Maykmr21@pitt.eduKMR21
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairStrauss, Markstrauss@pitt.eduSTRAUSS
Committee MemberMazefsky, Carla Amazefskyca@upmc.eduCAM150
Committee MemberBrownell, Celiabrownell@pitt.eduBROWNELL
Committee MemberSilk, Jennifer
Committee MemberCampbell, Susan Bsbcamp@pitt.eduSBCAMP
Date: 21 July 2011
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 19 November 2010
Approval Date: 21 July 2011
Submission Date: 1 December 2010
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Psychology
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: affective social competence; comorbidity; emotion
Other ID:, etd-12012010-222316
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 20:07
Last Modified: 19 Dec 2016 14:37


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