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Understanding the Relationship Between Friendship Quality and Peer Conflict Following the UCLA PEERS® School-Based Curriculum

Saturday, 4 May 2013: 10:30
Meeting Room 4-5 (Kursaal Centre)
10:30
M. M. Wasserman1,2,3, M. K. Kalies2, R. Ellingsen4, Y. Bolourian1 and E. Laugeson5, (1)The Help Group - UCLA Autism Research Alliance, Sherman Oaks, CA, (2)UCLA PEERS Clinic, Los Angeles, CA, (3)Pepperdine University, Los Angeles, CA, (4)University of California Los Angeles, Venice, CA, (5)UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience & Human Behavior, Los Angeles, CA
Background:  

Deficits in socials skills are a hallmark feature among individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), with the friendships of youth with ASD differing from those of their neurotypical counterparts (Bauminger, Solomon and Rogers, 2010).  Adolescents with ASD often have more impaired friendship quality than their neurotypical peers, and their friendships may also be more prone to conflict (Bauminger and Kasari, 2000).  The Program for Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills (PEERS®), a parent-mediated, evidence-based group social skills intervention assists in developing and maintaining friendships for middle school and high school youth with ASD. Previous research investigating the efficacy of PEERS® reveal significant improvements in friendship quality post-treatment (Laugeson et al., 2009; Laugeson et al., 2012); however, the relationship between friendship quality and degree of conflict during social interactions post-treatment has yet to be examined.

Objectives:   This study aims to understand the relationship between adolescent self-reported friendship quality and the degree of conflict during social engagements with peers following the implementation of a 14-week intervention (PEERS®).

Methods:  

Under the auspices of The Help Group – UCLA Autism Research Alliance, 146 middle and high school students with ASD ranging from 11-18 years of age (M=15.08; SD=1.802) participated in a larger treatment outcome study investigating the effectiveness of a teacher-facilitated, parent-assisted PEERS® curriculum in a non-public school setting.  Adolescent participants received daily social skills instruction in the classroom for 20-30 minutes, five days per week, for 14 weeks. Instruction was provided by the classroom teachers who were trained and supervised on the intervention. Parents were invited to participate in weekly 90-minute meetings that taught them strategies to assist their teens in improving their friendship skills.  Treatment outcome measures included the adolescent-reported Friendship Qualities Scale (FQS; Bukowski, Hoza, & Boivin, 1994) and the Quality of Socialization Questionnaire for Adolescents (QSQ-A; Frankel & Mintz, 2008), as well as the parent-reported Quality of Socialization Questionnaire for Parents (QSQ-P; Frankel & Mintz, 2008). Both the QSQ-A and QSQ-P assess the degree of conflict during get-togethers with peers.  In order to understand the relationship between friendship quality and peer conflict during social interactions, the present study examined post-treatment adolescent self-reported friendship quality on the FQS and post-treatment self- and parent-reported conflict during get-togethers as measured by the QSQ-A and QSQ-P.

Results:  

Results reveal that higher post-treatment scores on the FQS in the areas of adolescent self-reported companionship (p<.001), closeness (p<.05), and overall friendship quality (p<.05) predict less teen-reported conflict during get-togethers on the QSQ-A.  In addition, higher scores on the FQS in the areas of teen-reported companionship (p<.01), security (p<.05), and overall friendship quality (p<.05) predict less parent-reported conflict during adolescents’ get-togethers on the QSQ-P.

Conclusions:  

Results suggest that greater friendship quality as perceived by adolescents is related to less conflict during social interactions as perceived by parents and adolescents following a 14-week parent-assisted social skills intervention. These findings also indicate that increased companionship, closeness, and security in friendships are inversely related to conflict in peer relationships for adolescents with ASD.

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