Diagnostic- and sex-based differences in depression symptoms in autistic and neurotypical early adolescents

Autism. 2022 Jan;26(1):256-269. doi: 10.1177/13623613211025895. Epub 2021 Jun 26.


Depression is more common in autistic adolescents than their neurotypical peers, but the effects of diagnosis and sex on the severity and types of depressive symptoms remain unclear. The study explored diagnostic- and sex-based differences in depressive symptoms in 212 autistic and neurotypical early adolescents. Results show that autism spectrum disorder and female may pose elevated risks, and depressive symptoms related to interpersonal problems and negative self-esteem are more frequent in autism spectrum disorder. Autistic males and females endorsed similar severity and type of depressive symptoms, but unique differences emerged when compared to sex-matched neurotypical peers. Exploratory analyses in a clinical subsample of early adolescents with elevated depressive symptoms (Children's Depression Inventory, Second Edition, Total T-score ⩾60) revealed more endorsement of beliefs of worthlessness in autistic early adolescents. Findings suggest initial intervention targets for treating depression in autistic early adolescents.

Keywords: autism; depression; early adolescent; measurement; peers; sex.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder* / diagnosis
  • Autistic Disorder* / diagnosis
  • Child
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Self Concept
  • Sex Characteristics