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    The roles of sensory hyperreactivity and hyporeactivity in understanding infant fearfulness and emerging autistic traits

    Narvekar, N. and Carter Leno, V. and Pasco, G. and Begum-Ali, J. and Johnson, Mark H. and Charman, T. and Jones, Emily J.H. (2024) The roles of sensory hyperreactivity and hyporeactivity in understanding infant fearfulness and emerging autistic traits. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry , ISSN 0021-9630.

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    Background: Existing evidence indicates that atypical sensory reactivity is a core characteristic of autism, and has been linked to both anxiety (and its putative infant precursor of fearfulness) and repetitive behaviours. However, most work has used cross-sectional designs and not considered the differential roles of hyperreactivity and hyporeactivity to sensory inputs, and is thus limited in specificity. Methods:161 infants with and without an elevated likelihood of developing autism and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) were followed from 10-36 months of age. Parents rated an infant precursor of later anxiety (fearfulness) using the Infant Behaviour Questionnaire at 10 and 14 months, and the Early Childhood Behavioural Questionnaire at 24 months, and sensory hyperreactivity and hyporeactivity at 10, 14 and 24 months using the Infant Toddler Sensory Profile. Domains of autistic traits (restrictive and repetitive behaviours; RRB, and social communication interaction, SCI) were assessed using the parent-rated Social Responsiveness Scale at 36 months. Cross-lagged models tested 1) paths between fearfulness and hyperreactivity at 10-24-months, and from fearfulness and hyperreactivity to later autism traits, 2) the specificity of hyperreactivity effects by including hyporeactivity as a correlated predictor. Results: Hyperreactivity at 14 months was positively associated with fearfulness at 24 months, and hyperreactivity at 24 months was positively associated with SCI and RRB at 36 months. When hyporeactivity was included in the model, paths between hyperreactivity and fearfulness remained, but paths between hyperreactivity and autistic traits became non-significant. Conclusions: Our findings indicate that alterations in early sensory reactivity may increase the likelihood of showing fearfulness in infancy, and relate to later social interactions and repetitive behaviours, particularly in individuals with a family history of autism or ADHD.


    Item Type: Article
    Keyword(s) / Subject(s): autism, hyperreactivity, hyporeactivity, anxiety, early development, elevated likelihood, sensory reactivity
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Science > School of Psychological Sciences
    Research Centres and Institutes: Brain and Cognitive Development, Centre for (CBCD)
    Depositing User: Emily Jones
    Date Deposited: 06 Nov 2023 17:13
    Last Modified: 29 Jan 2024 08:15


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