Examining and Comparing Social Perception Abilities Across Childhood-Onset Neurodevelopmental Disorders
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OBJECTIVE: Several neurodevelopmental disorders are associated with social processing deficits. The objective of this study was to compare patterns of social perception abilities across obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and control participants. METHOD: A total of 265 children completed the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test-Child Version (RMET). Parents or caregivers completed established trait/symptom scales. The predicted percentage of accuracy on the RMET was compared across disorders and by item difficulty and item valence (i.e., positive/negative/neutral mental states), then analyzed for associations with trait/symptom scores. RESULTS: The percentage of correct RMET scores varied significantly between diagnostic groups (p < .0001). On pairwise group comparisons controlling for age and sex, children with ADHD and ASD scored lower than the other groups (p < .0001). When IQ was also controlled for in the model, participants with OCD performed better than controls (p < .001), although differences between other groups were less pronounced. Participants with ASD scored lowest on easy items. Those with ASD and ADHD scored significantly lower than other groups on items with positive valence (p < .01). Greater social communication impairment and hyperactivity/impulsivity, but not OCD traits/symptoms, were associated with lower scores on the RMET, irrespective of diagnosis. CONCLUSION: Social perception abilities in neurodevelopmental disorders exist along a continuum. Children with ASD have the greatest deficits, whereas children with OCD may be hypersensitive to social information. Social communication deficits and hyperactive/impulsive traits are associated with impaired social perception abilities; these findings highlight overlapping cognitive and behavioral manifestations across disorders.
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