Psychiatric conditions in autistic adolescents: longitudinal stability from childhood and associated risk factors

Matthew J. Hollocks*, Virginia Carter Leno, Susie Chandler, Pippa White, Isabel Yorke, Tony Charman, Andrew Pickles, Gillian Baird, Emily Simonoff

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Autistic people experience high rates of co-occurring psychiatric diagnoses. Current prevalence estimates vary considerably due to an over-reliance on clinical cohorts and the longitudinal stability of diagnoses from childhood into adolescence is poorly understood. This study aims to provide prevalence rates of co-occurring DSM-5 psychiatric diagnosis for autistic adolescence and investigate, for the first time, the stability of diagnoses from childhood. Using a longitudinal stratified sample of autistic youth (N = 77; 13–17 years; 60% male), selected from a larger community-derived sample of those with pre-existing autism diagnoses (N = 277) weighted prevalence estimates of emotional (anxiety, depression), behavioural (oppositional and conduct disorders) and ADHD diagnoses were calculated based on semi-structured psychiatric interview. Prediction of adolescent psychiatric diagnosis based on childhood diagnostic status, sex, childhood IQ (both assessed at age 4–10 years) was tested. Emotional and behavioural disorders in adolescence were particularly prevalent, and significantly predicted by childhood disorder status. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity-disorder (ADHD) was prevalent but not predicted by childhood ADHD diagnosis. Neither sex nor childhood IQ predicted diagnostic outcomes. Autistic youth have high levels of co-occurring psychiatric conditions, which are broadly persistent across childhood and adolescence. Emotional disorders are particularly prevalent and remain persistent from childhood to adolescence. Greater diagnostic variability was found for ADHD with more adolescents moving across diagnostic thresholds.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2022

Keywords

  • Adolescence
  • Autism
  • Comorbidity
  • Longitudinal
  • QUEST

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