Using Carey Temperament Scales to Assess Behavioral Style in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

  • Susan L. Hepburn
  • Wendy L. Stone


Many researchers have suggested that temperament information could be useful for understanding the behavioral variability within the autism spectrum. The purpose of this brief report is to examine temperament profiles of 110 children with ASD (ages 3–8 years, 61 with Autistic Disorder, 42 with PDD-NOS; and 7 with Asperger Disorder) via a commonly used parent report measure of child temperament. Internal consistency of temperament dimensions, test–retest reliability, descriptions of means and standard deviations are examined, relative to previously published norms. Internal consistency of the dimensions and test–retest reliability were comparable to published norms; however, children with autism were rated as presenting with more extreme scores than typically-developing children on several dimensions. Limitations and implications for future work are discussed.


Temperament Behavioral variability Assessment Autism 



This project was supported in part by NIMH #MH50620 (Stone), the Merck Dissertation Scholars Program (Hepburn) and the Collaborative Programs for Excellence in Autism Research funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Development (#HD35468). The authors express their gratitude to the following people who contributed to this endeavor: Barbara Hepburn,William MacLean, Steven Warren, Linda Ashford, Bahr Weiss, Bob Newbrough.


  1. Anastasi, A. (1989). Ability testing in the 1980’s and beyond: Some major trends. Public Personnel Management, 18, 471–485.Google Scholar
  2. Bailey, D. B., Hatton, D. D., Mesibov, G., Ament, N., & Skinner, M. (2000). Early development, temperament, and functional impairment in autism and fragile X syndrome. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 30, 49–59.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baydar, N. (1995). Reliability and validity of temperament scales of the NSLY child assessments. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 16, 339–370.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bristol, M., & Schopler, E. (1984). A developmental perspective on stress and coping in families of autistic children. In J. Blacher (Ed.), Severely handicapped children and their families (pp. 91–141). New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  5. Cameron, J. (1978). Parental treatment, children’s temperament and risk of childhood behavior problems. II: Initial temperament, parent attitudes, and their incidence and form of behavioral problems. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 48, 140–147.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Carey, W. B. (1986). Temperament and clinical practice. In S. Chess & A. Thomas (Eds.), Temperament in clinical practice (pp. 239–246). New York: Guildford.Google Scholar
  7. Carey, W. B., & McDevitt, S. C. (1989). Clinical and educational applications of temperament research. Berwyn, PA: Swets North America.Google Scholar
  8. Carey, W. B., & McDevitt, S. C. (1995). The carey temperament scales. Scottsdale, AZ: Behavioral-Developmental Initiatives.Google Scholar
  9. Chess, S., & Thomas, A. (1996). Temperament: Theory and practice. New York: Bruner-Mazel.Google Scholar
  10. Cronbach, L. J. (1951). Coefficient alpha and the internal structure of tests. Psychometrika, 16, 297–334.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Dawson, G., Toth, K., Abbot, R., Osterling, J., Munson, J., Estes, A., & Liaw, J. (2004). Early social attention impairments in autism: Social orienting, joint attention, and attention to distress. Developmental Psychology, 40(2), 271–283.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. DiLavore, P. C. (1991). Maternal ratings of temperament in children with autism and children with Down syndrome: A comparative study. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.Google Scholar
  13. Eaves, L. C., Ho, H. H., & Eaves, D. M. (1994). Subtypes of autism by cluster analysis. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 24, 3–22.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Goldberg, S., & Marcovitch, S. (1989). Temperament in developmentally disabled children. In G. A. Kohnstamm, J. E. Bates & M. K. Rothbart (Eds.), Temperament in childhood (pp. 387–403). New York: John Wiley and Sons.Google Scholar
  15. Hatton, D., Bailey, D. B., Hargett-Beck, M., Skinner, M., & Clark, R. D. (1999). Behavioral style of young boys with fragile X syndrome. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology, 41, 625–632.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hollander, E. (2004, May). Fluoxetine for repetitive behaviors and Valproate for irritability in autism. In F. Volkmar (Chair), Intervention symposium. Symposium conducted at the annual meeting of the Collaborative Programs of Excellence in Autism, Bethesda, MD.Google Scholar
  17. Holroyd, J., & McArthur, D. (1976). Mental retardation and stress on the parents: A contrast between Down’s syndrome and childhood autism. American Journal of Mental Deficiency, 80,431–438.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Huck, S. (2000). Reading statistics and research. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.Google Scholar
  19. Kasari, C., & Sigman, M. (1997). Linking parental perceptions to interactions in young children with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 27, 39–57.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Konstantareas, M. M., & Stewart, K. (2001, April). Affect regulation and temperament in children with pervasive developmental disorder. Paper presented at the Society for Research in Child Development Conference, Minneapolis, MN.Google Scholar
  21. Konstantareas, M. M., & Homatidis, S. (1989). Assessing symptom severity and stress in parents of autistic children. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 30, 459–470.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Leibowitz, G. (1991). Organic and biophysical theories of behavior. Journal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities, 3, 201–243.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. McDevitt, S. C., & Carey, W. B. (1978). The measurement of temperament in 3–7 year old children. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines, 19, 245–253.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. McDevitt, S. C., & Carey, W. B. (1996). Manual for the behavioral style questionnaire. Scottsdale, AZ: Behavioral-Developmental Initiatives.Google Scholar
  25. Pollack, C. F. (1998). An examination of temperamental variation and range among autistic children as reported by caregivers. Dissertation Abstracts International, Section B: the Sciences & Engineering 59(1-B), (UMI No. 0443).Google Scholar
  26. Rogers, S. J., Hepburn, S., & Wehner, E. (2003). Parent reports of sensory symptoms in toddlers with autism and those with other developmental disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 33(6), 631–642.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Rothbart, M. K., & Jones, L. B. (1999). Temperament: Developmental perspectives. In R. Gallimore & L. P. Bernheimer (Eds.), Developmental perspectives on children with high-incidence disabilities. The LEA series on special education and disability (pp. 33–53). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  28. Thomas, A., Chess, S., & Birch, H. (1968). Temperament and behavior disorders in children. New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Thomas, A., Chess, S., Birch, H. G., Hertzig, M. E., & Korn, S. (1963). Behavioral individuality in early childhood. New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of Colorado Health Sciences CenterDenverUSA
  2. 2.Vanderbilt Children's HospitalNashvilleUSA

Personalised recommendations