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      Examining social competence, self-perception, quality of life, and internalizing and externalizing symptoms in adolescent females with and without autism spectrum disorder: a quantitative design including between-groups and correlational analyses


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          Adolescent females with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are an understudied population, yet are also quite vulnerable, due to the increased complexities of social interaction and increased risk for internalizing symptoms in adolescence. Most research literature currently focuses on males with ASD, limiting our understanding of social experiences for females with ASD, and thus the potential to better inform supports and intervention to promote social-emotional functioning. This study examined similarities and differences in selected indicators of social-emotional health (social competence, self-perception, quality of life) and problematic behaviors such as externalizing and internalizing symptoms for adolescent females with and without ASD.


          This study employed a quantitative design utilizing correlational analysis as well as t test comparisons to examine selected indicators of social-emotional health and problematic symptoms using the Social Skills Improvement System (SSIS), Youth Quality of Life Instrument (YQOL), and the Self-Perceptions Profile for Adolescents (SPPA) for adolescent females with ASD in relation to their typically developing peers.


          Significant differences were found between females with and without ASD in terms of their self-ratings of social-emotional health and problematic behaviors. The no-ASD group rated themselves higher across all areas of social-emotional health. Findings also suggest strong relationships between these constructs, especially for females without ASD. Parent reports of autism symptoms and social-emotional health indicated that as symptoms of autism are more severe, so too was the impact on individuals’ social competence.


          Adolescent females with ASD perceive themselves as having lower social competence, self-worth, and quality of life and higher levels of internalizing and externalizing symptoms as compared to their typically developing peers. Parent ratings indicate that higher levels of autism symptoms relate to lower levels of social competence. These findings lend support to the postulate that adolescent females with ASD are more vulnerable than their typically developing counterparts due to the compounded impact of ASD symptoms on social-emotional health and the higher risk for internalizing disorders for adolescent girls. Limitations and implications for further research and intervention are discussed.

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          Most cited references21

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          A Meta-Analysis of School-Based Social Skills Interventions for Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders

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            Sex differences in autism.

            Comparisons were made between male and female children with autism, 384 boys and 91 girls, aged 3 years to 8 years, on nonverbal measures of intelligence, adaptive functioning, receptive vocabulary, perception, and eye-hand integration, and on ratings of affect, play, and relating and human interest. Males showed more advanced performances on eye-hand integration and perception skills on the Psychoeducational Profile (PEP) and had higher nonverbal IQs social quotients, and Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT) IQs than females. When nonverbal IQ was controlled, the main effect of sex remained; however, sex differences on PPVT scores and on eye-hand integration and perception scale disappeared. Males showed more unusual visual responses and less appropriate, more stereotypic play than females. These results are discussed in terms of hypotheses concerning sex differences in genetic thresholds and in hemispheric lateralization.
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              Being a girl in a boys' world: investigating the experiences of girls with autism spectrum disorders during adolescence.

              This study investigates the experiences of adolescent girls with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) during adolescence. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with three mother-daughter dyads and two additional mothers. A range of issues were highlighted covering physical, emotional, social and sexual domains. Some of these issues were similar to those experienced by boys with ASD during adolescence, such as negative implications of late diagnosis, challenges of transitioning to and coping with high school, 'hands-on' role of parents into adolescence, difficulties adjusting to the increased demands of adolescent hygiene routines, and the importance of learning personal boundaries in interactions with others. Other issues discussed were of particular relevance to adolescent girls with ASD, such as difficulties socialising with neurotypically developing girls, sex-specific puberty issues, and sexual vulnerabilities. This study highlights an important research area and is a preliminary step towards understanding the experiences of adolescent girls with ASD and their families.

                Author and article information

                Mol Autism
                Mol Autism
                Molecular Autism
                BioMed Central (London )
                17 September 2015
                17 September 2015
                : 6
                Center for Child Health and Development, University of Kansas Medical Center, 3901 Rainbow Boulevard, Kansas, KS 66160 USA
                © Jamison and Schuttler. 2015

                Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

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                © The Author(s) 2015

                autism,females with autism,adolescents,social competence,self-perception,internalizing disorders


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