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Alexithymia and Autistic Traits as Contributing Factors to Empathy Difficulties in Preadolescent Children.

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Speyer, Lydia Gabriela 
Brown, Ruth Harriet  ORCID logo
Camus, Lorna 
Murray, Aja Louise 
Auyeung, Bonnie 


Recent evidence suggests that, contrary to traditional views, empathy difficulties may not be a core feature of autism; but are rather due to co-occurring alexithymia. Empathy, alexithymia and autistic traits have yet to be examined concurrently in children. Therefore, we examined the co-occurrence of empathy difficulties and alexithymia in 59 typically developing and 5 autistic children. Multiple measures (self-report, parent-report and a behavioural task) were used to evaluate empathy and to assess differences in self- and parent-reports using multiple regressions. Alexithymia was found to predict empathy significantly better than autistic traits, providing support for the alexithymia hypothesis. From a therapeutic perspective, results suggest autistic children who screen positive for elevated alexithymic traits may benefit from additional support targeting emotion identification.



Alexithymia, Autistic Traits, Children, Empathy, Multi-Informant Approach, Affective Symptoms, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Autistic Disorder, Child, Emotions, Empathy, Humans

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J Autism Dev Disord

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Springer Science and Business Media LLC
Marie Skłodowska-Curie (813546)
Baily Thomas Charitable Fund (TRUST/VC/AC/SG/469207686)
Economic and Social Research Council (ES/N018877/1)