International Meeting for Autism Research (London, May 15-17, 2008): PREDICTING FRIENDSHIP QUALITY IN AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDERS (ASD)


Friday, May 16, 2008
Champagne Terrace/Bordeaux (Novotel London West)
11:30 AM
N. Bauminger , School of Education, Bar - Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Israel
S. J. Rogers , The M.I.N.D. Institute, UC Davis, Sacramento, CA
M. Solomon , UC Davis Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, MIND Institute, Imaging Research Center, Sacramento, CA
Background: Friendship in typical development is considered essential for children's well-being, yet, it is viewed as a major difficulty for children with ASD. In recent years, studies have shown that subgroups within the spectrum are able to develop friendships and experience loneliness in its absence. The components that may contribute to the formation of friendship are not yet well understood.
Objectives:   The current study examines the roles of attachment security and mother-child relationship qualities, Theory of Mind (ToM), age, language ability, and their interactions in predicting and explaining variation in observed and perceived friendship variables in ASD and typical development
Methods: Participants included 164 children (age 8-12) with high-functioning ASD (n=44) and with typical development (TYP) (n=38) and their 82 close friends. Groups were matched on SES, receptive language vocabulary, child age, and gender (each study group included one girl).
Multidimensional assessments included observation on child-friend dyadic interaction during construction and drawing scenarios; target child’s self perceived  friendship qualities; security of attachment; mother-child relationship qualities; ToM-2nd order false belief task and the PPVT.
Results: Our hypothesized predictors involving attachment security and mother-child relations and their interrelations had direct and indirect effects on friendship for both ASD and TYP, highlighting the important contributions of these factors to children’s friendship performance and suggesting both compensatory and amplification mechanisms for friendship qualities.
Conclusions: Discussion focuses on role of attachment and parent-child relations in development of friendships; implications of similar friendship predictors in typical and ASD development; and practical and clinical implications.