International Meeting for Autism Research: Peer Victimization of Adolescents with An Autism Spectrum Disorder

Peer Victimization of Adolescents with An Autism Spectrum Disorder

Friday, May 13, 2011
Elizabeth Ballroom E-F and Lirenta Foyer Level 2 (Manchester Grand Hyatt)
3:00 PM
P. Kloosterman1, E. A. Kelley2, J. Parker3, W. `. Craig1 and C. Javier4, (1)Queen's University, Kingston, ON, Canada, (2)62 Arch St., Queen's University, Kingston, ON, Canada, (3)Psychology, Trent University, Peterborough, ON, Canada, (4)Laurier University, Waterloo, ON, Canada
Background: Little research has explored victimization and bullying in individuals with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Many individuals with ASD have been portrayed by clinicians as “perfect” targets for victimization, primarily because of impairments in social interaction and emotional competency (Heinrichs, 2003; Volkmar & Klin, 2000).

Objectives: The goal of this study was to compare the experiences of bullying/victimization in a group of adolescents with Asperger’s syndrome or High Functioning Autism (AS/HFA) to a group of adolescents with a learning disability and/or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (LD/ADHD), and a control group.  A secondary goal was to determine whether parents were aware of the bullying behaviour experienced by their children.

Methods: Participants were 70 adolescents boys ranging in age from 11 to 18 years of age (M = 14.75; SD = 1.90) and their parents. Twenty-four adolescents had a primary diagnosis of AS/HFA, 22 had a primary diagnosis of LD and/or ADHD, and 24 were typically-developing. AS/HFA diagnoses were confirmed using the ADOS-G. All adolescents completed a questionnaire to assess their experiences with being both a victim and bullying others. Parents were also asked to report “to their knowledge” the frequency and types of bullying behaviour experienced by their child. The adolescents were also administered the Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence (Wechsler, 1999).


Results: The three groups did not differ in age, however, the LD/ADHD group had a significantly lower IQ than the typically developing adolescents (p = .042). Overall, the AS/HFA adolescents reported significantly more victimization than the control group [F(1,47) = 7.86, p < .05, Cohen’s d = .69] and the LD/ADHD group [F(1,45) = 5.27, p < .05, Cohen’s d = .57], when controlling for age and IQ.  The AS/HFA adolescents reported more physical bullying [F(1,47) = 4.59, p < .05, Cohen’s d = .51] and social isolation [F(1,47) = 9.30, p > .05, Cohen’s d = .68] than the control group. While reports of physical victimization and social isolation were highest in the AS/HFA group, this group did not differ from the LD/ADHD group on these two types. No differences were found between the three groups for bullying others. Parental reports did not differ from their child’s reports across types of bullying behaviour for the AS/HFA group or the LD/ADHD group. However, adolescents in the control group reported significantly higher levels of being teased and being called mean names than reported by their parents [F(1,45) = 5.88, p < .05, Cohen’s d = .73]. Adolescents in this group also reported higher levels of teasing and calling other students mean names than reported by their parents [F(1,45) = 8.94, p < .05, Cohen’s d = .89].    

Conclusions: Adolescents with AS/HFA experience more victimization than typical adolescents or adolescents with a LD/ADHD, most notably for physical bullying and social isolation. This is likely due to their impairments in social interaction and emotional competency. Parents with a child with an AS/HFA or LD/ADHD were quite aware of their children’s experiences of victimization.  



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