International Meeting for Autism Research: Predictors of Peer Victimization In Adolescents with and without An Autism Spectrum Disorder

Predictors of Peer Victimization In Adolescents with and without An Autism Spectrum Disorder

Thursday, May 12, 2011
Elizabeth Ballroom E-F and Lirenta Foyer Level 2 (Manchester Grand Hyatt)
11:00 AM
E. A. Kelley1, P. Kloosterman2, J. Parker3, W. `. Craig2 and C. Javier4, (1)62 Arch St., Queen's University, Kingston, ON, Canada, (2)Queen's University, Kingston, ON, Canada, (3)Psychology, Trent University, Peterborough, ON, Canada, (4)Laurier University, Waterloo, ON, Canada
Background: Physical aggression, name calling, intimidating gestures, spreading of rumours, and exclusion from the group by powerful others are all examples of behaviours that comprise peer victimization. Surprisingly, little research has explored the prevalence of peer victimization in adolescents with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Results from a handful of existing studies clearly indicate that children and adolescents with an ASD are at much greater risk of peer victimization than their typically developing classmates (Carter, 2009; Little, 2002).

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.

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