Identifying features of ‘pathological demand avoidance’ using the Diagnostic Interview for Social and Communication Disorders (DISCO)

O’Nions, E., Gould, J., Christie, P., Gillberg, C. , Viding, E. and Happé, F. (2016) Identifying features of ‘pathological demand avoidance’ using the Diagnostic Interview for Social and Communication Disorders (DISCO). European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 25(4), pp. 407-419. (doi: 10.1007/s00787-015-0740-2) (PMID:26224583) (PMCID:PMC4820467)

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The term ‘pathological demand avoidance’ (PDA) was coined by Elizabeth Newson to describe children within the autism spectrum who exhibit obsessive resistance to everyday demands and requests (Newson et al., Arch Dis Child 88:595–600, 2003). Clinical accounts describe avoidance strategies including apparently strategic use of distraction or socially shocking behaviour, and obsessive need for control, reflected in domineering behaviour to peers and adults. Educational and management approaches effective for PDA reportedly differ from those for ‘typical’ autism spectrum disorders (ASD), and include novelty, humour and flexibility. Identification of PDA in individuals with ASD may have important implications for management (Eaton and Banting, J Learn Disabil Offending Behav 3:150–157, 2012). Despite increasing interest, no clinician-rated instrument for PDA has been developed. Here, items relevant to PDA were identified from the Diagnostic Interview for Social and Communication Disorder (DISCO) (Wing et al., J Child Psychol Psychiatry 43:307–325, 2002). The most PDA-specific subset of relevant DISCO items was selected, based on low endorsement in general across a sample of 153 individuals assessed for possible ASD using the DISCO. Having selected 11 DISCO PDA items for the measure, a subset of individuals with a high number of these features was identified (N = 27). Consistent with Newson’s descriptions, this high scoring group was characterised by lack of co-operation, use of apparently manipulative behaviour, socially shocking behaviour, difficulties with other people, anxiety and sudden behavioural changes from loving to aggression. All but one case met criteria for an ASD. This study brings the field a step closer to a clinician-rated measure of PDA features and highlights the need for further elucidation of the PDA phenotype.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:Elizabeth O’Nions was supported by an ESRC PhD studentship [ES/H031367/1].
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Gillberg, Professor Christopher
Authors: O’Nions, E., Gould, J., Christie, P., Gillberg, C., Viding, E., and Happé, F.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Health and Wellbeing > Mental Health and Wellbeing
Journal Name:European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
ISSN (Online):1435-165X
Published Online:30 July 2015
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2015 The Authors
First Published:First publisheed in European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 25(4):407-419
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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