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Relationship Between Self-Concept and Peer Victimization Amongst Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Saturday, 4 May 2013: 10:45
Meeting Room 4-5 (Kursaal Centre)
A. R. Dillon1, R. Ellingsen2, J. Hopkins3 and E. Laugeson4, (1)Pacific Graduate School of Psychology, Palo Alto, CA, (2)University of California Los Angeles, Venice, CA, (3)Department of Psychiatry, UCLA PEERS Clinic, Los Angeles, CA, (4)UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience & Human Behavior, Los Angeles, CA
Background:   According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, 28% of adolescents reported being the victims of bullying within a six-month period (Robers, Zhang, & Truman, 2010). This number nearly doubles for adolescents with special needs. Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are known to be frequent targets of bulling and victimization (Little, 2002). Klin et al. (2000) describe individuals with ASD as “perfect victims” for bullying due to their social deficits. Moore and Kirkham (2001) found that individuals who reported being victims of bullying had significantly lower self-esteem when compared to individuals who reported never being bullied. Additionally, the more the individual reported victimization, the lower their self-esteem. While much of the current research in this area examines the relationship between self-concept and victimization among typically developing youth, little is known about the impact of peer rejection and victimization for adolescents with ASD.

Objectives:   This study seeks to investigate the relationship between adolescent self-report of peer victimization and self-concept among teens with ASD. Correlations between adolescent’s self-concept and self-perceived peer victimization on three standardized measures were examined.

Methods:   Participants included 47 adolescents with ASD ranging from 11-17 years of age (M = 13.62; SD = 1.71) referred for social skills treatment. Participants completed the Social Skills Improvement System (SSIS; Gresham & Elliot, 2008), Olweus Bullying Questionnaire (OBQ; Olweus, 1996) and Piers-Harris Self-Concept Scale-2 (PHS-2; Piers & Herzberg, 2002) prior to treatment. Adolescent responses from the PHS-2, SSIS Bullying Subscale, and one question from the OBQ that explicitly inquired how often the adolescent had been bullied were examined using Pearson correlations in order to understand the relationship between adolescent self-perceived peer victimization and self-concept. 

Results:  Results reveal a significant correlation between the PHS-2 Total score, which measures overall self-esteem, and the SSIS Bullying Subscale (r = -.445, p = .002). To determine which subscales on the PHS-2 correlated with self-perceived victimization, additional correlations were conducted.   Significant correlations between endorsement of victimization on the SSIS Bullying Subscale and the PHS-2 subscales were revealed in the areas of Behavioral Adjustment (r = -.631, p = .000), Freedom from Anxiety (r = -.487, p = .001), and Happiness and Satisfaction (r = -.356, p = 0.14). The correlation between the PHS-2 Total score and the OBQ item relating to frequency of bullying was not significant (r =-.194, p=.202).

Conclusions:   Results reveal that adolescents who endorse greater overall peer victimization also report more problematic behaviors, more anxiety, and are less happy and less satisfied with their lives. This study highlights the need for increased mental health services to address peer victimization and bullying for adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders in order to decrease problematic behaviors, reduce anxiety, and improve overall happiness and life satisfaction.

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