Happiness, self-esteem, and prosociality in children with and without Autism Spectrum Disorder: evidence from a UK population cohort study

Gillian McChesney, Umar Toseeb

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High levels of childhood happiness, self-esteem, and prosociality are associated with positive social and emotional outcomes. Little is known about whether these constructs co-occur and how levels of co-occurrence are different in children with/without Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Data was obtained from 13,285 11-year olds (408 with ASD) from a UK based prospective cohort study. Latent class analysis revealed five distinct classes: The “very low prosociality class” (with ASD 32% vs without ASD 7%) was characterised by children who were happy and had high self-esteem but they were not prosocial. The “low happiness class” (with ASD 3% vs without ASD 3%), included those children who had moderate self-esteem and were prosocial but were the least happy. Children in the “low to moderate positive functioning class” (with ASD 16% vs without ASD 6%) were moderately happy and had the lowest self-esteem but they were prosocial. The “moderate to high positive functioning class” (with ASD 17% vs without ASD 23%) was characterised by children who were happy, had moderate self-esteem, and were very prosocial. The majority of children were in the “optimum class” (with ASD 31% vs without ASD 62%), and were very happy, very prosocial with high self-esteem. Our findings demonstrate that for the majority of children in our sample, happiness, self-esteem, and prosociality co-occur. Furthermore, although, as a group, children with ASD have lower levels of positive functioning, our multivariable latent class approach suggests that nearly half of children with ASD are happy, have good levels self-esteem, and are prosocial.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages13
JournalAutism Research
Early online date6 Jul 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 6 Jul 2018


  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • happiness
  • prosociality
  • self-esteem

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