Anxiety and intellectual functioning in autistic children:A systematic review and meta-analysis


Autistic children experience higher levels of anxiety than their peers. Making appropriate diagnoses of anxiety disorders and providing effective treatment for these children is particularly difficult. Inconsistent evidence suggests that levels of anxiety in autistic children are related to intellectual functioning. We provide the first meta-analysis of this evidence. A systematic search identified 49 papers for review. These papers included measures of anxiety and intelligence quotient in 18,430 autistic children. Studies employing correlations showed evidence of a significant relationship between intelligence quotient and anxiety in autistic children: children with higher intelligence quotient scored higher on measures of anxiety. Studies directly comparing groups of autistic children with and without intellectual disability also supported this conclusion. Most studies employing other designs also supported this finding. Employing a quality assessment framework identified common threats to validity. Many studies used measures of anxiety that were not validated across the samples they measure. This was most notable for those autistic children with an intellectual disability. It is vital that future research determines whether the identified relationship between intelligence quotient and anxiety reflects something important in the mechanism for anxiety in autistic children, or quantifies the lack of sensitivity of our measures of anxiety across different groups.

Publication DOI:
Divisions: College of Health & Life Sciences > School of Psychology
Additional Information: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (
Uncontrolled Keywords: anxiety,autism,autism spectrum disorder,intelligence quotient,meta-analysis,Developmental and Educational Psychology
Publication ISSN: 1461-7005
Last Modified: 14 May 2024 07:18
Date Deposited: 23 Nov 2020 09:24
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Related URLs: https://journal ... 362361320953253 (Publisher URL)
http://www.scop ... tnerID=8YFLogxK (Scopus URL)
PURE Output Type: Review article
Published Date: 2021-01-01
Published Online Date: 2020-11-16
Accepted Date: 2020-11-01
Authors: Mingins, Jessica E
Tarver, Joanne (ORCID Profile 0000-0003-0555-6043)
Waite, Jane (ORCID Profile 0000-0002-8676-3070)
Jones, Chris
Surtees, Andrew DR



Version: Published Version

License: Creative Commons Attribution

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