Understanding the heterogeneity of anxiety in autistic youth: A person-centered approach. Autism research : official journal of the International Society for Autism Research Spackman, E., Lerh, J. W., Rodgers, J., Hollocks, M. J., South, M., McConachie, H., Ozsivadjian, A., Vaughan Van Hecke, A., Libove, R., Hardan, A. Y., Leekam, S. R., Simonoff, E., Frazier, T. W., Alvares, G. A., Schwartzman, J. M., Magiati, I., Uljarevic, M. 2022


The present study aimed to examine anxiety profiles among children and adolescents on the autism spectrum. It further aimed to characterize the association between the identified anxiety profiles and key clinical and developmental variables. The Spence Children's Anxiety Scale-Parent Version (SCAS-P) data from a large international pooled sample of 870 caregivers of autistic children and adolescents (Mage =11.6years, SDage =2.77; 107 females) was used. Latent profile analysis identified a three-anxiety profile solution exhibiting high entropy (0.80) and high latent profile probabilities, with good classification accuracy. Identified profiles fell along the severity spectrum and were named as the mild (n=498), moderate (n=272) and severe (n=100) anxiety profiles. There were no statistically significant differences between the three anxiety profiles in terms of sex distribution. Participants in the mild profile were significantly younger than those in the severe profile, had significantly fewer social communication difficulties than youth in the moderate anxiety profile group and had significantly fewer restricted and repetitive behaviors and lower cognitive functioning scores compared to participants in moderate and severe anxiety profiles. This is the first study to move beyond identifying associations and group-level differences to exploring and identifying characteristics of anxiety-based subgroups at an individual level that differ on key clinical and developmental variables. The subgroups identified in this study are a preliminary, yet important, first step towards informing future assessment and individualized interventions aiming to support young people on the autism spectrum to reduce and manage anxiety. LAY SUMMARY: This study tried to understand if there are subgroups of autistic young people who may have similar anxiety profiles. We found that we could meaningfully group young people into three groups based on how severe the anxiety symptoms their caregivers reported were: a group with low levels of anxiety, those with moderate anxiety, and those with more severe anxiety. We also found that the young people in the mild group were younger, had fewer autism traits and lower levels of intellectual functioning than young people in the other two groups.

View details for DOI 10.1002/aur.2744

View details for PubMedID 35642170