The Comprehensive Autistic Trait Inventory (CATI): development and validation of a new measure of autistic traits in the general population

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Background
Traits and characteristics qualitatively similar to those seen in diagnosed autism spectrum disorder can be found to varying degrees in the general population. To measure these traits and facilitate their use in autism research, several questionnaires have been developed that provide broad measures of autistic traits [e.g. Autism-Spectrum Quotient (AQ), Broad Autism Phenotype Questionnaire (BAPQ)]. However, since their development, our understanding of autism has grown considerably, and it is arguable that existing measures do not provide an ideal representation of the trait dimensions currently associated with autism. Our aim was to create a new measure of autistic traits that reflects our current understanding of autism, the Comprehensive Autism Trait Inventory (CATI).

Methods
In Study 1, 107 pilot items were administered to 1119 individuals in the general population and exploratory factor analysis of responses used to create the 42-item CATI comprising six subscales: Social Interactions, Communication, Social Camouflage, Repetitive Behaviours, Cognitive Rigidity, and Sensory Sensitivity. In Study 2, the CATI was administered to 1068 new individuals and confirmatory factor analysis used to verify the factor structure. The AQ and BAPQ were administered to validate the CATI, and additional autistic participants were recruited to compare the predictive ability of the measures. In Study 3, to validate the CATI subscales, the CATI was administered to 195 new individuals along with existing valid measures qualitatively similar to each CATI subscale.

Results
The CATI showed convergent validity at both the total-scale (r ≥ .79) and subscale level (r ≥ .68). The CATI also showed superior internal reliability for total-scale scores (α = .95) relative to the AQ (α = .90) and BAPQ (α = .94), consistently high reliability for subscales (α > .81), greater predictive ability for classifying autism (Youden’s Index = .62 vs .56–.59), and demonstrated measurement invariance for sex.

Limitations
Analyses of predictive ability for classifying autism depended upon self-reported diagnosis or identification of autism. The autistic sample was not large enough to test measurement invariance of autism diagnosis.

Conclusions
The CATI is a reliable and economical new measure that provides observations across a wide range of trait dimensions associated with autism, potentially precluding the need to administer multiple measures, and to our knowledge, the CATI is also the first broad measure of autistic traits to have dedicated subscales for social camouflage and sensory sensitivity.
Original languageEnglish
Article number37
Number of pages23
JournalMolecular Autism
Volume12
Issue number1
Early online date17 May 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 May 2021

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