Attachment and social relatedness in autism

Date of Completion

January 1995


Education, Educational Psychology|Education, Special|Sociology, Individual and Family Studies




Impairments in social relatedness are viewed as primary to the diagnosis of autism. However, it has been difficult to determine the social, cognitive, and affective disturbances which are key traits of the disorder. The current study developed a measure of attachment behavior for parents and teachers to examine the differences in the profiles of autistic and mentally retarded children matched for mental age. Subjects consisted of 35 autistic children (mean age 9.86 years) and 16 retarded children (mean age 9.16 years). The Parent and Teacher Questionnaires had high internal reliability for both groups of children. Interrater reliability across settings was highly significant for the retarded children but not for the autistic group. Social cognition was related to more advanced attachment behaviors for the autistic children but not the retarded children. Children with autism were more deficient than children with mental retardation on items tapping more advanced attachment behaviors including imitation, joint attention behavior, concern about the affective state of another individual, and peer play. ^