, Volume 24, Issue 6, pp 575-590
Date: 21 Jun 2012

Peer Victimization in Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders and Co-occurring Anxiety: Relations with Psychopathology and Loneliness

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Abstract

Peer problems are common among children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), and may be exacerbated among those who are also anxious. Yet, few data exist on the nature and psychosocial correlates of peer victimization in youth with ASD and anxiety. Accordingly, this study investigated associations among peer victimization, loneliness, autism-related social impairment, and psychopathology in a sample of 60 youth (ages 11–14 years) with ASD and co-occurring anxiety. Youth completed measures of peer victimization, loneliness, anxiety, and depression, while their parent completed measures of child behavioral and emotional problems, functional impairment in daily life, and autism-related social impairment. Modest rates of victimization were noted, with ~7 % and 15 % of youth reporting clinically significant relational and reputational victimization but 0 % of participants endorsing significant overt victimization. Peer victimization was directly but modestly associated with some psychosocial maladjustment indices, but not with autism-related social impairment. Although results have to be considered in the context of certain limitations, these data suggest that peer victimization may be associated with anxiety and depressive symptoms and loneliness in children with ASD and comorbid anxiety.

The contributions of Sarah Gunderson are acknowledged. This paper was supported by grants from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to the first, third, 10th and 11th authors (5R34HD065274-02), and grants to the first author from the All Children’s Hospital Research Foundation and the University of South Florida Office of Research and Innovation Established Researcher Grant Program.