Turner Syndrome: Mental Health and Social Skills from Childhood to Adolescence


Turner Syndrome: mental health and social skills from childhood to adolescence

By Jeanne Wolstencroft, William Mandy & David Skuse

Talk presented at the Society for the Study of Behavioural Phenotypes Conference 2017, Leiden,  14-16th September 2017


Background:Turner Syndrome (XO; TS) is one of the most common sex chromosome aneuploidies, however research into the psychological wellbeing and social skills of girls with TS is scarce. This study aims to examine the mental health problems and social skills difficulties in girls with TS from childhood to adolescence.

Methods: The Development and Wellbeing Assessment (DAWBA; n=58), the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ; n=58) and the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS; n=31) were administered online to the caregivers of girls aged 4-20. All assessments are widely used and validated. Participants were recruited through the IMAGINE ID and SOAR research studies.

Results: SRS and SDQ scores showed that girls with TS experienced social difficulties. Mean total SRS scores were in the mildly impaired range (M=67.9, SD=8.8). The SDQ showed that peer problems were greatest in adolescence, despite improvements in prosocial behaviours.

DAWBA analysis showed elevated rates of mental health disorder. Most notably 34% met criteria for at least one mental health diagnosis. 21% met criteria for autism spectrum disorders (ASD), 14% for oppositional defiant disorder, 13% for anxiety disorders and 10% for attention deficit hyperactivity disorders (ADHD). Except for ADHD and ASD, most mental health disorders were diagnosed in adolescence.

Conclusion: Girls with TS have higher rates of mental health and social skills difficulties than the general population. Their difficulties become more apparent in adolescence. Given the high rates of mental health disorder and social skills difficulties, more research is warranted. Understanding the patterns of improvement in prosocial behaviours and the increase in peer problems may provide insights for intervention. If increased attempts to engage in social interaction are associated with peer problems, social skills interventions may require careful planning in order to avoid peer rejection.

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