A review of Efrosini Kalyva (2008). Comparison of Eating Attitudes between Adolescent Girls with and without Asperger Syndrome: Daughters’ and Mothers’ Reports Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders DOI: 10.1007/s10803-008-0648-5

The marked gender difference in the rate of autism spectrum diagnoses has resulted in a major gender disparity in research. That is, the overwhelming majority of studies on autism are conducted with boys, and studies examining mostly girls are very rare. The study I’m reviewing today was conducted at the University of Sheffield in Greece. The author wanted to examine the rates of eating problems reported by girls with Asperger’s syndrome when compared to typically developing girls. The study included 56 girls with AS and 56 typically developing girls (Age 12 to 18). The AS was diagnosed by a multidisciplinary team via ADI and ADOS using USA cutoff points. The comparison sample was selected from the local school system. The AS and the typically developing girls were match for Body Mass Index (BMI). The girls and their mothers completed the Eating Attitude Test. This test assesses a wide range of eating behaviors (“I have gone on eating binges”) and attitudes (“I’m terrified about being overweight”) associated with several eating disorders.

The results indicated that, when compared to typically developing girls, girls with AS were more likely to endorse more symptoms associated with bulimia and food preoccupation. However, no difference between the groups were noted on dieting behaviors. The author reached the same conclusion when examining mother’s reports of their daughters eating habits and attitudes.

Please note that these results suggest increased symptoms of eating disorders among the AS girls, but this may not necessarily translate to actual diagnoses of eating disorders. That is, the study did not include a comprehensive evaluation for actual eating disorders. Thus, the differences in rates of eating disorder among the two groups of girls is unknown.

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3 Responses to Girls with Asperger’s more likely to have eating disorders?

  1. Girls and boys with Asperger’s, autism, schizophrenia, bipolar that is non-familial are more likely to have older fathers.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I wonder if it has to do with obsessive thinking. AS girls will more likely obsess, and obsessing on food is a likely candidate, since at this age, they will be trying to fit into the culture. Food obsessions would seem almost culturally acceptable.

    My own experience is that AS girls are extremely practical and almost immune to nonsense ideas. The idea that a person would have no value unless they were thin would be very unbelievable to them. So I wonder if these eating disorder “traits” are actually signs of something else.

  3. Anonymous says:

    We discuss eating and girls with ASDs in our new book:

    Girls Growing Up on the Autism Spectrum

    http://www.amazon.com/Girls-Growing-Autism-Spectrum-Professionals/dp/1843108550/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s;=books&qid;=1227872821&sr;=8-1

    A very important topic and one deserving of more study.

    Shana Nichols, Ph.D.
    Clinical Director
    Fay J. Lindner Center for Autism

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