BEHAVIORAL PROFILES OF BULLYING AND VICTIMIZATION IN ADOLESCENTS WITH SPECIAL NEEDS
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The defining criteria of ASD include impairments in social interaction and communication, and repetitive or stereotyped behaviors (APA, 2000). Compared to typical developing (TD) children, children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) spend more time alone and less time interacting in social situations (Humphrey & Symes, 2010). In addition, they report having few, if any, friends and are often excluded from the peer group (Wainscot, Naylor, Sutcliffe, Tantam, & Williams, 2008). Over the last decade a number of studies have emerged that consistently show that children and adolescents with ASD are at greater risk of victimization than their TD peers (Cappadocia et al., 2012; Humphrey & Symes, 2011; Little, 2002; Symes & Humphrey, 2010; Rowley et al., 2012; Van Roekel et al., 2010; Wainscot et al., 2008). Thus, the primary goals of the current research were: 1) to examine the involvement in types of bullying behavior by adolescent boys with ASD, and 2) to determine whether two factors, pragmatic language and executive functioning (EF), may contribute to the elevated risk of peer victimization experienced by this population. The first chapter of this dissertation provides a general introduction to the current research problem. The second chapter presents a manuscript that outlines the types and frequency of bullying behaviors experienced by adolescent boys with ASD in comparison to a group of special needs (SN) peers and a group of TD adolescents. It was found that adolescents with ASD reported more social isolation in comparison to the other two groups and more physical bullying than their TD peers. This chapter also highlights the agreement found between parental and self-reports of bullying behavior experienced by adolescents with SN. The third chapter presents a manuscript that investigates deficits in EF and pragmatic language as possible predictors of bullying behavior in adolescents with and without ASD. Results revealed that EF was a significant predictor of physical, social, and verbal victimization for the adolescent boys with and without ASD. In the fourth chapter, research findings are discussed in the broader context of the existing literature. Implications, limitations, recruitment issues, and directions for future research are also addressed.