Empathy, social relationship and co-occurrence in young adults with DCD

Miri Tal Saban, Amanda Kirby

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    Empathy is defined as an emotional or cognitive response to another’s emotional state. It is considered essential for navigating meaningful social interactions and is closely linked to prosocial behavior. Developmental coordination disorder (DCD) is characterized by an impairment of motor coordination that has a marked impact on both academic and day-to-day living activities. Children and adolescents with DCD have been shown to have less developed social support and friendships. The research linking empathy and DCD is scarce. The aims of this study are to gain an understanding of the relationship between DCD and empathy in young adults with DCD only, and with DCD coupled with other neurodevelopmental disorders, in comparison with typically developing adults.


    The study included 212 young adults aged 18–40 years. The subjects in this study were from mainstream populations in the UK. The study groups included: (a) “DCD only” with 42 individuals; (b) “DCD + ASD” with 21 individuals; (c) “DCD + ADHD” with 45 individuals; (d) “DCD + ASD + ADHD” with 29 individuals; and (e) the control group of 75 individuals.


    ANOVA on the Empathy Questionnaire (EQ) showed a statistically significant difference between groups (F [4,257] = 35.63; p < 0.001; ηp2 = 0.409). No significant differences were found between the DCD-only and the control. MANOVA was performed to assess differences in the Socialising and Friendship Questionnaire (SAF-Q) scores. The results showed a statistically significant difference between groups (F [8,257] = 9.98; p < 0.001; η = 0.162). Pearson correlation coefficients were performed, revealing significant high correlations between the EQ and the two parts of the SAF-Q (“past” and “currently”).


    The results of this study indicate that social difficulties in the DCD-only group are not due to lack of empathy, but may be driven by an accumulation of external factors. In this study we also concluded that DCD does not appear to be the factor that reduces the ability to empathize, but rather the presence of ADHD and/or ASD.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numberS0167945718303658
    Pages (from-to)67-72
    JournalHuman Movement Science
    Issue numberFebruary 2019
    Early online date29 Nov 2018
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2019


    • Developmental Coordination Disorder
    • DCD
    • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
    • ADHD
    • Autism Spectrum Disorder
    • ASD
    • Empathy
    • Socializing
    • Friendship


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