Exploring the quantitative nature of empathy, systemising and autistic traits using factor mixture modelling

Publication Type:
Journal Article
British Journal of Psychiatry, 2015, 207, (5), pp. 400-406
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BACKGROUND: Autism research has previously focused on either identifying a latent dimension or searching for subgroups. Research assessing the concurrently categorical and dimensional nature of autism is needed. AIMS: To investigate the latent structure of autism and identify meaningful subgroups in a sample spanning the full spectrum of genetic vulnerability. METHOD: Factor mixture models were applied to data on empathy, systemising and autistic traits from individuals on the autism spectrum, parents and general population controls. RESULTS: A two-factor three-class model was identified, with two factors measuring empathy and systemising. Class one had high systemising and low empathy scores and primarily consisted of individuals with autism. Mainly comprising controls and parents, class three displayed high empathy scores and lower systemising scores, and class two showed balanced scores on both measures of systemising and empathy. CONCLUSIONS: Autism is best understood as a dimensional construct, but meaningful subgroups can be identified based on empathy, systemising and autistic traits.
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