Autistic Traits and Atypical Eating Behaviours in the General Adult Population – Investigating the Modulatory Role of Rigid, Repetitive Behaviours and Sensory Processing and their Gender Differences.
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Background and aim. Individuals with autistic traits have been shown to demonstrate various atypical eating behaviours. Rigid and repetitive behaviours (RRBs) and sensory processing differences have been postulated to play a potential role on this relationship. The aim of this study is to investigate the presence of autistic traits and their effect on atypical eating behaviours in a general, adult population. The potential modulatory role of these RRBs and sensory processing on this relationship is investigated along with potential gender differences. Method. 138 participants including 98 women and 25 men completed an online questionnaire assessing autistic traits, atypical eating behaviours, RRBs and sensory processing. Results. A simple linear regression demonstrated a significant positive effect of autistic traits on atypical eating behaviours. Multiple regression analyses showed no moderation effect of RRBs on the relationship between autistic traits and atypical eating behaviours in the total sample or in men and women separately. A moderation effect of sensory processing on this relationship was found in the total sample and in women but not in men. Conclusions. Autistic traits are present in an adult, general population and show a possible effect on atypical eating behaviours. Sensory processing difficulties could play a role in the presentation of atypical eating behaviours in individuals with autistic traits. Gender differences were investigated but need to be researched further due to a small male sample, however sensory processing difficulties seem to play a larger role in the effect of autistic traits on atypical eating behaviours in women than men.