The Link Between Perceptions of Self and of Social Relationships in High-Functioning Children with Autism



This study examined the perception of friendship in high-functioning children with autism (8–17 years old) and the link between perceptions of self and of social relationships in these children. Sixteen typically developing children were matched to sixteen high-functioning children with autism, on chronological age, IQ, gender, and mother's education. Study measures included a friendship picture recognition task and three self-report questionnaires: qualities of friendship, loneliness, and self-perception profile. Main results indicated that even if children with autism more frequently related to the intersubjective qualities of friendship such as affective sharing or intimacy, they perceived their friendship to be as close as did typically developing children. Also, for the group with autism, friendship correlated positively with cognitive competencies and general self-worth and negatively with loneliness. In addition, children with autism perceived their social and athletic competencies as lower compared with typically developing children. Implications of the associations between self-perceptions and perceptions of friendship are discussed.

high-functioning children with autism friendship self perception loneliness 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. American Psychiatric Association (1994). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, (4th edn., Rev.), American Psychiatric Association, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  2. Asher, S. R., Hymel, S., and Renshaw, P. D. (1984). Loneliness in children. Child Dev. 55: 1456–1464.Google Scholar
  3. Asher, S. R., and Wheeler, V. A. (1985). Children's loneliness: A comparison of rejected and neglected status. J. Consult. Clin. Psychol. 53: 500–505.Google Scholar
  4. Bauminger, N., and Kasari, C. (2000). Loneliness and friendship in high-functioning children with autism. Child Dev. 71: 447–456.Google Scholar
  5. Bauminger, N., and Kasari, C. (2001). The experience of loneliness and friendship in autism: Theoretical and practical issues. In Schopler, E., Marcus, L., Shulman, C., and Yirmiya, N. (eds.), The Research Basis for Autism Intervention, Kluwer Academic/Plenum, New York, pp. 151–168.Google Scholar
  6. Bauminger, N., and Shulman, C. (2003). The development and maintenance of friendship in high-functioning children with autism: Maternal perception. Autism 7: 81–97.Google Scholar
  7. Buhrmester, D. (1990). Intimacy of friendships, interpersonal competence and adjustment during preadolescence and adolescence. Child Dev. 61: 1101–1111.Google Scholar
  8. Bukowski, W. M., Boivin, M., and Hoza, B. (1994). Measuring friendship quality during pre-and early adolescence: The development and psychometric properties of the friendship qualities scale. J. Soc. Pers. Relat. 11: 471–484.Google Scholar
  9. Capps, L., Sigman, M., and Yirmiya, N. (1995). Self-competence and emotional understanding in high-functioning children with autism. Dev. Psychopathol. 7: 137–149.Google Scholar
  10. Cassidy, J., and Asher, S. R. (1992). Loneliness and peer relations in young children. Child Dev. 63: 350–365.Google Scholar
  11. Evans, D. W. (1998). Development of the self-concept in children with mental retardation: A review. In Burack, J. A., Hodapp, R. M., and Zigler, E. (eds.), Handbook of Mental Retardation, Cambridge University Press, New York, pp. 462–480.Google Scholar
  12. Evans, D. W., Brody, L., and Noam, G. (1995). Self-perceptions of adolescents with and without mood disorder: Content and structure. J. Child Psychol. Psychiatry Allied Discip. 36: 1337–1351.Google Scholar
  13. Erikson, E. (1968). Youth and Society, Norton, New York.Google Scholar
  14. Frith, U., and Happe, F. (1999). Theory of mind and self-consciousness: What is it to be children with autism. Mind Lang. 14: 1–22.Google Scholar
  15. Furman, W., and Bierman, K. (1983). Developmental changes in young children's conceptions of friendship. Child Dev. 54: 549–556.Google Scholar
  16. Harter, S. (1982). The perceived competence scale for children, Child Dev. 55: 87–97.Google Scholar
  17. Harter, S. (1983). Developmental perspective on the self system. In Hetherington, E. M. (ed.), Handbook of Child Psychology: Socialization, Personality, and Social Development, Wiley, New York, pp. 257–386.Google Scholar
  18. Harter, S. (1985). Self-Perception Profile for Children, Unpublished manual, University of Denver, Denver.Google Scholar
  19. Harter, S. (1990). Causes, correlates, and the role of global self-worth. In Kolligian, J., and Sternberg, R. (eds.), Competence Considered, Yale University Press, New Haven, CN.Google Scholar
  20. Hermelin, B., and O'Connor, N. (1985). Logico-affective states and nonverbal language. In Schopler, E., and Mesibov, G. B. (eds.), Communication Problems in Autism, Plenum, New York, pp. 283–309.Google Scholar
  21. Hobson, R. P. (1993). The emotional origins of social understanding. Philos. Psychol. 6: 227–245.Google Scholar
  22. Howes, C. (1996). The earliest friendships. In Bukowski, W. M., Newcomb, A. F., and Hartup, W. W. (eds.), The company They Keep: Friendships in Childhood and Adolescence, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, pp. 86–66.Google Scholar
  23. Kasari, C., Chamberlain, B., and Bauminger, N. (2001). Social emotions and social relationships in autism: Can children with autism compensate? In Burack, J., Charman, T., Yirmiya, N., and Zelazo, P. (eds.), Development and Autism: Perspectives From Theory and Research, Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ.Google Scholar
  24. Lee, A., and Hobson, R. P. (1998). On developing self-concepts: A controlled study of children and adolescents with autism. J. Child Psychol. Psychiatry 39: 1131–1144.Google Scholar
  25. Lord, C., Rutter, M., and LeCouteur, A. (1994). Autism diagnostic interview—revised: A revised version of a diagnostic interview for caregivers of individuals with possible pervasive developmental disorders. J. Autism Dev. Disord. 19: 212–185.Google Scholar
  26. Mayes, L., and Cohen, D. J. (1992). Experiencing self and others: Contributions from studies of autism to the psycholanalytic theory of social development. J. Am. Psychoanal. Assoc. 42: 191–218.Google Scholar
  27. Neisser, U. (1988). Five kinds of self-knowledge. Philosophical Psychology 1: 35–59.Google Scholar
  28. Parker, J. G., and Gottman, J. M. (1989). Social and emotional development in a relational context: Friendship interaction from early childhood to adolescence. In Brendt, T., and Ladd, G. (eds.), Peer Relationships in Child Development, Wiley, New York, pp. 95–131.Google Scholar
  29. Renshaw, P. D., and Brown, R. J. (1993). Loneliness in middle childhood: Concurrent and longitudinal predictions. Child Dev. 64: 1271–1284.Google Scholar
  30. Rogers, S. J., and Pennington, B. F. (1991). A theoretical approach to the deficits in infantile autism. Dev. Psychopathol. 3: 137–162.Google Scholar
  31. Schopler, E. (1985). Convergence of learning disability, higher-level autism, and asperger's syndrome. J. Autism Dev. Disord. 15: 359–360.Google Scholar
  32. Sullivan, H. S. (1953). The Interpersonal Theory of Psychiatry, Norton, New York.Google Scholar
  33. Wechsler, D. (1974). WISC-R Manual: Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children—Revised. Psychological Corporation, San Antonio, TX.Google Scholar
  34. Yirmia, N., and Sigman, M. (1991). High functioning individuals with autism: Diagnosis, empirical findings, and theoretical issues. Clin. Psychol. Rev. 11: 669–683.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of EducationBar-Ilan UniversityRamat-GanIsrael
  2. 2.School of Social WorkHebrew University of JerusalemJerusalemIsrael

Personalised recommendations