Brief Report: Do You See What I See? The Perception of Bullying in Male Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder


Although there is evidence to suggest that adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have difficulty interpreting complex social situations, little is known about their understanding of bullying. Given the high rates of victimization in this population, it is important to investigate how adolescents with ASD comprehend bullying. Male adolescents with ASD and IQ-matched typically-developing (TD) controls (Mage = 14.62, SD = 1.91) watched six videos portraying bullying scenarios and were interviewed after each video. The interviews were coded for the participants’ understanding of the bullying scenarios. Results indicated that adolescents with ASD had significantly lower bullying understanding scores than TD adolescents. These novel findings suggest that male adolescents with ASD understand bullying differently than their TD peers. Implications for experiences with victimization are discussed.

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We would like to thank all of the adolescents and families who participated in this research, and the many undergraduate volunteers who helped code and enter this data, particularly Karly Covall, Alisha Thakkar, Nicole Carmona and Victoria Shields.


This study was funded by Autism Speaks Grant Number 3629.

Author information




EK, PK, and WC conceived of the larger study from which this data was drawn. PK collected all of the interview data. ZH and EK conceived of the coding sheets and ZH did all of the transcribing of the interviews. RF, LH, and CH helped with statistical and technical issues and provided input to the manuscript. ZH and EK wrote the manuscript with final approval from all authors.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Elizabeth Kelley.

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All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants’ parents included in the study and written assent was obtained from all individual participants.

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Hodgins, Z., Kelley, E., Kloosterman, P. et al. Brief Report: Do You See What I See? The Perception of Bullying in Male Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder. J Autism Dev Disord 50, 1822–1826 (2020).

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  • Autism
  • Adolescents
  • Bullying
  • Victimization
  • Social understanding
  • Social cognition