Relationships between autism spectrum disorder and intolerance of uncertainty

Autism Res. 2018 Apr;11(4):636-644. doi: 10.1002/aur.1916. Epub 2018 Jan 7.


Intolerance of uncertainty (IU) is a dispositional risk factor involving maladaptive responding under conditions of uncertainty. Recent data indicate that IU is likely elevated in youth with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and is positively correlated with anxiety. This study examined whether IU may be associated with ASD independent of anxiety. Relationships between anxiety, ASD, and IU were examined in 57 children with ASD without co-occurring intellectual disability and 32 control participants, ages 7-16 years. Hierarchal linear regressions were run to examine whether ASD variables, including emotion dysregulation, were predictive of IU when controlling for anxiety. Severity of social communication deficits, repetitive behaviors, and emotion dysregulation were each related to IU when controlling for the effects of anxiety. When these variables were entered into the regression model together, emotion dysregulation was the only significant predictor of IU. These findings suggest that IU is directly related to features of ASD possibly due to shared genetic, neurological, or psychological underpinnings. Autism Res 2018, 11: 636-644. © 2018 International Society for Autism Research, Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Lay summary: Youth with ASD without co-occurring intellectual disability experience high levels of intolerance of uncertainty (IU), which is related to anxiety. This study found that IU may also have a relationship with certain aspects of ASD, particularly emotion dysregulation.

Keywords: anxiety; autism; emotion dysregulation; intolerance of uncertainty; worry.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adolescent
  • Affective Symptoms / diagnosis
  • Affective Symptoms / psychology
  • Anxiety / diagnosis
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Anxiety Disorders / diagnosis
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / diagnosis
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / psychology*
  • Character
  • Child
  • Communication
  • Comorbidity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intellectual Disability / complications
  • Intellectual Disability / diagnosis
  • Intellectual Disability / psychology
  • Male
  • Motor Skills Disorders / diagnosis
  • Motor Skills Disorders / psychology
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Communication Disorder / diagnosis
  • Social Communication Disorder / psychology
  • Uncertainty*