Objectives: The aim of this study was to investigate how deficits in various social and cognitive factors may relate to peer victimization in adolescents with and without an ASD.
Methods: Participants were 68 adolescent boys ranging in age from 11 to 18 years of age (M = 14.60; SD = 1.89) and their parents. Thirty-one adolescents had a primary diagnosis of an ASD and 37 were typically-developing (TD). ASD diagnoses were confirmed using the ADOS-G. All adolescents were administered the Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence (Wechsler, 1999) and the pragmatic judgement subtest of the Comprehensive Assessment of Spoken Language (Carrow-Woolfolk, 1999). As well, adolescents completed the self-report Emotional Quotient Inventory: Youth Version (Bar-on & Parker, 2000) as a measure of emotional intelligence (EI) along with a questionnaire regarding their experiences of peer victimization (World Health Organization, 2003). Parents completed the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function (BRIEF; Gioia, Isquith, Guy, &Kenworthy, 2000) to provide a measure of executive functioning for their child.
Results: The two groups of adolescents did not differ in age, however the ASD adolescents had significantly lower (yet in the average range) IQ scores than the TD adolescents [t(66) = 2.18, p < .05]. As a result, IQ was considered a covariate in all analyses. With age as an additional covariate, the ASD adolescents were found to have significantly poorer pragmatic judgement [F(1,67) = 13.68, p < .05] and total EI [F(1,67) = 7.90, p < .05] in comparison to the TD adolescents. In contrast to their typical peers, significant cognitive impairments in executive functioning for the ASD adolescents were found across both the behaviour regulation [F(1,64) = 45.63, p < .05]and metacognition [F(1,62) = 36.33, p < .05] subtests of the BRIEF. A series of multiple regressions were conducted to determine whether these social and cognitive deficits might predict peer victimization. Results revealed that the stress management domain of EI (p = .004) and the emotional control domain of the BRIEF (p = .045) were significant predictors of peer victimization for both ASD and TD adolescents. Pragmatic judgement failed to emerge as a significant predictor of peer victimization.
Conclusions: ASD adolescents displayed deficits in many areas of social and cognitive functioning in comparison to TD adolescents. Difficulty modulating emotional responses appropriately and a lack of ability to cope with stress appear to place adolescents with and without an ASD at risk for peer victimization.
See more of: Psychiatric/Behavioral Comorbidities
See more of: Symptoms, Diagnosis & Phenotype