Joint attention and attachment in toddlers with autism

Fabiënne B.A. Naber*, Sophie H.N. Swinkels, Jan K. Buitelaar, Claudine Dietz, Emma Van Daalen, Marian J. Bakermans-Kranenburg, Marinus H. Van IJzendoorn, Herman Van Engeland

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Joint attention is often referred to as a triadic relation between self, other and object. Young children with autism show deficiencies in the use of joint attention behaviors. Individual differences may be expected, and they may be determined by the children's cognitive development or the characteristics of the relationship of the child with the caregiver. Although most joint attention skills develop under the age of three, most studies of joint attention in children with autism involved children older than 3 years of age, due to difficulties in diagnosing autism under this age. In this study we investigated joint attention behaviors of 78 young children (mean age 25.7 months, SD 6.1) with autism spectrum disorders (n = 20), other developmental delays (n = 18), and typically developing children (n = 40). Following the pertinent literature and confirmed by factor analysis, two types of joint attention behaviors were distinguished, Basic Joint Attention (BJA) and Associated Joint Attention (AJA). We found that cognitive delays and autistic symptoms-but not attachment insecurity or disorganization-were related to less joint attention. Already at the age of 2 years, children with more autistic symptoms show less joint attention, even after controlling for developmental level.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)899-911
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Abnormal Child Psychology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Attachment
  • Autistic disorder
  • Joint attention
  • Toddlers


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