Brief Report: Sexual Attraction and Relationships in Adolescents with Autism

Abstract

Past research suggests more variation in sexual attraction in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) using clinical samples. This study utilised a population representative group of 14/15 year olds from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children. Ninety-four adolescents (73 males, 21 females) with ASD and 3454 (1685 males, 1675 females) without self-reported on sexual attraction and past sexual relationships. Females with ASD reported lower rates of heterosexual preference (adjusted odds ratio: 0.14, p < .001), higher rates of bisexuality (adjusted odds ratio: 6.05, p < .001) and uncertainty in attraction (adjusted odds ratio: 10.44, p < .001) compared with non-ASD females. ASD males reported fewer prior boyfriends/girlfriends. Findings confirm female adolescents with ASD have differences in sexual attraction compared with non-ASD females.

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Acknowledgments

This article uses confidential unit record files from the LSAC survey. The LSAC was initiated and funded by the Commonwealth Department of Families, Housing, Community Services, and Indigenous Affairs and was managed by the Australian Institute of Family Studies. The findings and views reported in this article are those of the authors and should not be attributed to either the Commonwealth Department of Families, Housing, Community Services, and Indigenous Affairs, or the Australian Institute of Family Studies. We thank all the families participating in the LSAC study. The authors report no conflicts of interest. The authors alone are responsible for the content and writing of the paper. We wish to thank the William Collie Trust, University of Melbourne, for their support of authors Dr May and Professor Williams. Dr Tamara May wrote the first draft of the manuscript and no honorarium, grant, or other form of payment was given to anyone to produce the manuscript. All authors acknowledge they have contributed significantly to the present manuscript.

Author Contributions

TM, KP, KW made a substantial contribution to the study design and conception and interpretation of findings. Dr May completed the data analysis and drafted the paper. All authors revised and critically reviewed the paper and provided approval of the final version to be published. All authors are accountable for all aspects of the work.

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Correspondence to Tamara May.

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May, T., Pang, K.C. & Williams, K. Brief Report: Sexual Attraction and Relationships in Adolescents with Autism. J Autism Dev Disord 47, 1910–1916 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-017-3092-6

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Keywords

  • Autism
  • Adolescent health
  • Sexuality
  • Sexual attraction