A systematic review and meta‐analysis of sex/gender differences in social interaction and communication in autistic and nonautistic children and adolescents

Authors: Henry Wood-Downie, Bonnie Wong, Hanna Kovshoff, Samuele Cortese and Julie Hadwin
Published: 2020
Publication: Child Psychology and Psychiatry

Background: Evidence increasingly suggests that ASD manifests differently in females than males. Previous reviews investigating sex/gender differences in social interaction and social communication have focused at the level of broad constructs (e.g. comparing algorithm scores from pre‐existing diagnostic instruments) and have typically reported no significant differences between males and females. However, a number of individual studies have found sex/gender differences in narrow construct domains.
Method: We conducted a systematic review and random effects model meta‐analyses (in January 2019 and updated January 2020) that investigated sex/gender differences in narrow construct measures of social communication and interaction in autistic and nonautistic children and adolescents, and adults. Study quality was appraised using the Appraisal Tool for Cross‐Sectional Studies (AXIS, BMJ Open, 6, 2016, 1).
Results: Across 16 studies (including 2,730 participants), the analysis found that female (vs. male) individuals with ASD had significantly better social interaction and social communication skills (SMD = 0.39, p < .001), which was reflective of a similar sex/gender profile in nonautistic individuals (SMD = 0.35, p < .001). Nonautistic males had significantly better social interaction and communication than males with ASD (SMD = 0.77, p < .001). Nonautistic females also had significantly better social interaction and communication than females with ASD (SMD = 0.72, p <.001). Nonautistic males had better social interaction and communication than females with ASD, though this difference was not significant (SMD = 0.30, p = .07).
Conclusions: This systematic review and meta‐analysis highlighted important sex/gender differences in social interaction and communication for individuals with ASD, likely not captured by pre‐existing diagnostic instruments, which potentially contribute to the under recognition of autism in females, and may need to be reflected in the diagnostic process.

Wood-Downie, H., Wong, B., Kovshoff, H., Cortese, S. & Hadwin, J. A. (2020) Research Review: A systematic review and meta‐analysis of sex/gender differences in social interaction and communication in autistic and nonautistic children and adolescents. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. DOI: 10.1111/jcpp.13337

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What beliefs influence children and young people’s attitudes towards the transgender population?

Authors: Jenna Read, Cora Sargeant and Sarah Wright
Published: 2020
Publication: Educational and Child Psychology

Aims: This review aims to identify and explore the specific beliefs that influence children and young people’s (CYP’s) attitudes towards the transgender population.
Method: A systematic review of the literature was undertaken and a total of 14 studies were included in the review. The review included studies from the United States, Europe, and Asia. Each study was appraised using Gough’s (2007) Weight of Evidence Framework and awarded a quality assurance rating of low, medium, or high quality.
Findings: The review identified three sets of beliefs that appear to influence CYP’s attitudes towards the transgender population: Heteronormativity, conservatism and gender essentialism. Gender differences in beliefs were found to influence attitudes towards the transgender population as a whole and towards Male-to-Female (MtF) individuals and Female-to-Male (FtM) individuals.
Limitations: The key limitation within this review is that the mechanisms through which beliefs influence CYP attitudes are hypothetical. Further insight using qualitative approaches would deepen the understanding of the underpinnings of attitudes towards the transgender population, particularly transprejudice. A variety of measures were used across the included studies which limits the comparability
of the finding and conclusions drawn
Conclusions: This review identified three sets of beliefs that influence attitudes towards the transgender population. These beliefs represent a traditional, binary model of gender that contrasts with the experiences of gender-diverse populations. A more inclusive model of gender is proposed whereby acceptance, diversity and belonging are promoted.

Read, J., Sargeant, C. & Wright, S. (2020) What beliefs influence children and young people’s attitudes towards the transgender population? Educational and Child Psychology, (37)1, 11-36.

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