International Meeting for Autism Research: Effects of Social Skills Deficits and Psychological Issues on Friendship Quality In Young Adults with Autism

Effects of Social Skills Deficits and Psychological Issues on Friendship Quality In Young Adults with Autism

Thursday, May 12, 2011
Elizabeth Ballroom E-F and Lirenta Foyer Level 2 (Manchester Grand Hyatt)
10:00 AM
A. Gantman1, S. K. Kapp2, K. Orenski3 and E. A. Laugeson4, (1)Department of Psychiatry, UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience & Human Behavior, Westwood, CA, (2)Moore Hall, Box 951521, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, (3)Alliant University, Los Angeles, CA, (4)Psychiatry, UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience & Human Behavior, Los Angeles, CA
Background: Like children and teens with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), young adults with ASD continue to experience social deficits that impair their ability to develop and maintain social relationships. Already challenged by poor social skills in such basic areas as using social cues and entering, engaging in, and exiting two-way conversations, many young adults with ASD further limit their opportunities for social success by making few social initiations or withdrawing from social interactions or settings. Social skill deficits and social disengagement weaken friendship quality, due to the fact that most young adults with ASD do not participate regularly in social activities and few have any close reciprocal friendships. Furthermore, psychological factors such as high rates of anxiety and mood disorders are frequently correlated with social deficits, which may present additional barriers to young adults with ASD in developing high-quality relationships.

Objectives: Correlations between friendship quality and psychosocial factors in young adults with ASD were explored to better understand their relationships.

Methods: 34 young adults with high-functioning ASD were assessed using a battery of self-report psychosocial measures to determine current psychological, adaptive, and social functioning. Correlations between the Friendship Questionnaire (Baron-Cohen & Wheelwright, 2003) and the Social Skills Index (SSI; Riggio, 1986), Social Skills Rating System (SSRS; Gresham & Elliot, 1990), Empathy Quotient (EQ; Baron-Cohen & Wheelwright, 2004), Social Anxiety Scale (SAS; La Greca & Lopez), and Social and Emotional Loneliness Scale for Adults (SELSA; DiTomasso & Spinner, 1993) were explored using Pearson correlations in order to derive a better understanding of the differences between these factors.

Results: SSI results revealed that friendship quality on the FQ is strongly correlated with overall social skills (r=.716), and is related to Social Expressivity (r=.667), Emotional Sensitivity (r=.699), and Social control (r=.472). Similarly, the FQ had moderate correlations with Empathy (r=.565) and Assertiveness (r=.472) on the SSRS. Better friendship quality on the FQ was also correlated to factors such as: decreased social loneliness on the SELSA (r=.-540) and decreased social anxiety on the SAS (r=-.366). Analyses of the EQ provided further positive correlations with the FQ in Cognitive Empathy (r=.577) and Emotional Reactivity (r=.555).

Conclusions: Findings suggest that powerful correlations exist between social skill deficits and friendship quality, which may relate to poorer psychological well being in young adults with ASD. These findings clearly highlight the need for social skills interventions that not only address social deficits, but may also address other psychological factors which may be adversely affect social functioning. Furthermore, studies of social skills treatments would do well to assess not only social skills and friendship quality changes post-treatment, but investigate broader psychological domains that may be affected by such interventions.

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