Has anyone ever wondered where the aggressive behavior in autism comes from? Or why it’s more prevalent in those on the spectrum?

As those of you know who deal with a child on the spectrum, or if you deal with it yourself, worse than normal tantrums are normal, but can be debilitating for families to go out in public depending on the severity of the tantrums and the autism itself.

Until the past 5 years, aggression in autism has never been researched. Dr’s. Stephen Kanne and Micah Mazurek of the Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders at the University of Missouri did a study to find out how often these tantrums cause aggressive behavior and what risk factors are associated with aggressive behavior.

There were a number of families who took place in this study through Simons Simplex Collection. They took 1,380 on the spectrum between the ages of 4 and 17. They found that out of the entire group, 56% were in some way aggressive towards caregivers, while 32% were aggressive towards non caregivers. When this study had been done before, the numbers were 68% towards caregivers and 49% to non caregivers.

Although these numbers dropped, that is still a huge risk factor for families and their child.

So how does one know the risk factors involved to try and help?

These researchers eventually split the children into 2 groups, ones who were very physically aggressive and ones who rarely displayed it. Typically, when people think aggression they think men. These researchers found that isn’t the case with those on the spectrum.

They found that the only risk factor in those with autism is the younger the child, the more aggressive they tend to be.

The risk factors they found with those who are more aggressive are:

  • More repetitive behaviors, especially self-injurious or ritualistic behaviors, or extreme resistance to change
  • More severe autistic social impairment
  • A higher family income

Although they have this information, it still didn’t help them come to the conclusion of why this aggressive behavior is more existent in those on the spectrum. They did find though that adults who tried to interfere with repetitive behavior, a repetitive routine, or when they are trying to escape uncomfortable sensory input, especially in boys, became more aggressive.

The one thing that did puzzle these researchers though is that those with more financial income weren’t getting the necessary resources to help their child. They did say that further research would need to be done in order to help those learn more about it.

I especially would love to know. I am prone to aggressive behavior myself and have to try to control it in some way. Plus, I would love to learn more about why it is more prevalent to those on the spectrum and what may cause it to be that way.


Interactive Autism Network



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