logo SBA


Digital archive of theses discussed at the University of Pisa


Thesis etd-10222019-120406

Thesis type
Tesi di specializzazione (4 anni)
Thesis title
Investigating the impact of the Broad Autism Phenotype in parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders: implications for psychiatric comorbidity and global functioning.
Course of study
relatore Prof.ssa Dell'Osso, Liliana
correlatore Dott.ssa Carmassi, Claudia
  • ruminative thinking
  • parents
  • global functioning
  • broad autism phenotype
  • subthreshold autism spectrum
Graduation session start date
Release date
Background: Several studies in literature found in parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) features qualitatively similar to those of their autistic offspring, such as poor social skills, communication difficulties, unusually strong interests, repetitive behaviours and specific personality characteristics. All these traits were grouped under the generic term of Broad Autism Phenotype (BAP) and were considered a milder manifestation of autism. Moreover, the parents of ASD children showed an higher rates of psychiatric disorders, when compared to the general population. The aim of the present work was to investigate the role of the BAP in determining vulnerability towards psychopathology. Furthermore, our project pointed to clarify the impact of BAP on social and occupational functioning of these individuals, with a specific focus on ruminative thinking.
Methods: Parents of 60 ASD children were enrolled, for a total of 120 subjects, 60 males and 60 females. The individuals were assessed by the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-5, the Adult Autism Subthreshold Spectrum (AdAS Spectrum), the Ruminative Response Scale (RRS) and the Social and Occupational Functioning Assessment Scale (SOFAS).
Results: Subjects with at least one psychiatric disorder (39.2 %) showed significantly higher AdAS Spectrum and RRS scores. Subjects with a history of school difficulties and with language development alterations scored significantly higher on specific AdAS Spectrum domains. A significant negative correlation was found between SOFAS and AdAS Spectrum scores, as well as between SOFAS and RRS scores. AdAS Spectrum Non-verbal communication domain score was identified has a statistically predictive variable for the presence of psychiatric disorders and lower SOFAS scores. Finally, we found a significant indirect effect of AdAS total score on SOFAS score, which was fully mediated by RRS total score.
Conclusions : The presence of the BAP in parents of ASD children seems to be associated with an higher vulnerability towards several psychiatric conditions and with a lower global functioning.
Ruminative thinking may have a mediating role in the relationship between BAP and psychiatric disorders, as well as in the relationship between BAP and global functioning. In particular, our results seem to suggest a transnosographic role of rumination in the development of psychopathology and in the functional impairment.