INTRODUCTION: There is limited research on Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) in females. Although the empathy construct has been examined thoroughly in autism, little attention has been paid to empathy in adult women with this condition or to gender differences within the disorder.
OBJECTIVE: Self-reported empathy in adult women with ASD was examined and compared to that of typically developed men and women as well as to men with this condition.
METHODS: Online databases were searched for articles investigating self-reported empathy among adult women with ASD. Only six studies comparing women to men were identified.
RESULTS: All studies found women with an ASD to report lower levels of empathy than typically developed women, and typically developed men, but similar levels to men with this condition.
CONCLUSION: The self-reported empathic ability of women diagnosed with ASD resembles that of their male counterparts most closely; they show a hypermasculinisation in empathy. This is particularly surprising considering the large gender difference in empathy in the general population.
DISCUSSION: One of the limitations of this review is that the current diagnostic criteria for ASD are oriented towards male-specific behaviour and fail to integrate gender specific characteristics. Hence, women diagnosed with ASD are likely to be at the male end of the continuum. The suggested hypermasculinisation of women on the spectrum, as evident from this review, may therefore be exaggerated due to a selection bias.
- HIGH-FUNCTIONING AUTISM
- CROSS-CULTURAL STABILITY
- NORMAL SEX-DIFFERENCES
- FETAL TESTOSTERONE
- QUOTIENT EQ
- SCREENING QUESTIONNAIRE