Little is known about the specific factors that contribute to the well-being (WB) of individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). A plausible hypothesis is that ASD symptomatology has a direct negative effect on WB. In the current study, the emerging tools of network analysis allow to explore the functional interdependencies between specific symptoms of ASD and domains of WB in a multivariate framework. We illustrate how studying both higher-order (total score) and lower-order (subscale) representations of ASD symptomatology can clarify the interrelations of factors relevant for domains of WB.
We estimated network structures on three different construct levels for ASD symptomatology, as assessed with the Adult Social Behavior Questionnaire (item, subscale, total score), relating them to daily functioning (DF) and subjective WB in 323 adult individuals with clinically identified ASD (aged 17–70 years). For these networks, we assessed the importance of specific factors in the network structure.
When focusing on the highest representation level of ASD symptomatology (i.e. a total score), we found a negative connection between ASD symptom severity and domains of WB. However, zooming in on lower representation levels of ASD symptomatology revealed that this connection was mainly funnelled by ASD symptoms related to insistence on sameness and experiencing reduced contact and that those symptom scales, in turn, impact different domains of WB.
Zooming in across construct levels of ASD symptom severity into subscales of ASD symptoms can provide us with important insights into how specific domains of ASD symptoms relate to specific domains of DF and WB.