Development and Psychopathology


Self-competence and emotional understanding in high-functioning children with autism

Lisa Cappsa1, Marian Sigmana1 c1 and Nurit Yirmiyaa2

a1 University of California, Los Angeles

a2 Hebrew University of Jerusalem


This study examined the relationships between perceived self-competence, intellectual ability, emotional understanding, and parent report of social adaptation in 18 nonretarded children with autism. Children who perceived themselves as less socially competent demonstrated stronger intellectual capabilities, greater understanding of others' emotional experiences, and were better able to access their own emotional experiences than were those who perceived themselves as more socially competent. According to their parents, children who reported less social competence also displayed more socially adaptive behavior, and expressed more interest and less sadness and fear than did those who reported greater social competence. Discussion focuses on potential effects of this heightened capacity for emotional understanding on self-esteem and implications for intervention with highly intelligent persons with autism.


c1 UCLA Medical School, 68–237B NPI, 760 Westwood Plaza, Los Angeles, CA 90024.