Sensory over-responsivity, psychopathology, and family impairment in school-aged children

Alice S. Carter, Ayelet Ben-Sasson, Margaret J. Briggs-Gowan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To establish the diagnostic validity of sensory overresponsivity (SOR), there is a need to document rates of SOR and the co-occurrence of SOR with other psychiatric disorders. Although this was not a diagnostic study of SOR, this study was designed to investigate rates of elevated SOR symptoms and associations between elevated SOR symptoms, psychiatric disorder status, and family impairment. Method: From a larger birth cohort followed from infancy to school age, 338 children aged 7 to 10 years (51% boys, 49% girls) and their parents participated in an intensive assessment. Parents were interviewed with the Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children (DISC) and completed the SensOR inventory and the Family Life Impairment Scale. Results: Approximately one-fifth (21.2%) of children had elevated SOR symptoms. One-fourth (24.3%) of those with an elevated SOR score met criteria for a DSM-IV diagnosis, and 25.4% of children with a DSM-IV diagnosis had an elevated SOR score. Parents of children with elevated SOR alone reported a similar number of restrictions in family life as parents of those with an internalizing and/or externalizing diagnosis. SOR predicted concurrent family impairment above and beyond DSM diagnostic status and socio-demographic risk. Conclusions: Elevated SOR occurs in the absence of other psychiatric conditions and is associated with impairment in family life. Services for children with comorbid elevated SOR and an externalizing disorder are needed to address the extremely high level of family impairment reported.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1210-1219
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Support for this research came from grants from the National Institute of Mental Health ( R01MH55278 ) and the Wallace Foundation (ASC).


  • externalizing
  • family impairment
  • internalizing
  • psychopathology
  • sensory over-responsivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'Sensory over-responsivity, psychopathology, and family impairment in school-aged children'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this