Family Sex Communication for Young Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Thursday, May 11, 2017: 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Golden Gate Ballroom (Marriott Marquis Hotel)
T. Kozikowski1 and C. Warren2, (1)Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk, VA, (2)Organizational Sciences and Communication, The George Washington University, Washington, DC
Background:  Previous research has suggested that many of the problems surrounding ASD and sexuality may be helped through family communication and education that are geared toward individuals with ASD. There has not been substantive research, however, as to what specific aspects of family communication about sexuality may need to be emphasized or altered for this population. Dr. Clay Warren developed the FSCQ along with Dr. Michael Neer in 1986. This measure evaluates child and parent communication about sexuality on three dimensions: comfort, information, and value. The current study represents the first time this measure was used to evaluate communication about sexuality between young adults with ASD and their parents.

Objectives:  The purpose of this presentation is to address the first data on family communication about sex from young adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and their parents collected via the Family Sex Communication Questionnaire (FSCQ). It will offer insights about family sex communication research collected over the thirty years since the development of the FSCQ from its author, Dr. Clay Warren. The presentation’s primary focal points will be the differentiation of two regularly confused terms - sex education and sex communication - and the need for ASD young adults to have better sex communication with family members (with particular emphasis on the comfort dimension of the FSCQ).

Methods: 118 young adults with ASD (ages 18-30; 44% female) and their parents completed the FSCQ via an anonymous on-line survey. Young adults and parents from the same family were grouped together through a unique four digit code to ensure that data could be properly analyzed through paired samples t-tests.

Results:  Paired samples t-tests were used to evaluate differences between parent and young adult reports on the FSCQ overall and its sub-scales. Results showed that young adults reported significantly lower comfort (t [115] = 13.56, p < 0.001), information (t [116] = 3.54, p < 0.001), and overall (t [117] = 6.28, p < 0.001) scores when compared to their parents. However, the two groups did not differ on the value sub-scale (t [116] = -0.17, p = 0.87). See Table 1 for the summarized descriptive statistics.

Conclusions:  Young adults with ASD have lower levels of comfort and information but similar levels of value placed on family communication about sex when compared to the outcomes of their parents. Moreover, both parents and young adults reported lower than strong overall FSCQ scores (≤ 72). These results indicate that although parents and young adults are reporting different levels of comfort and information gained from communicating about sex, they both value communication about sex in general on the same level. In addition, the overall FSCQ scores of young adults are significantly lower than those of the parent group. Therefore, this study’s outcome suggests it may be important to focus on aligning comfort and information facets, as well as boosting overall FSCQ levels (particularly those of young adults with ASD), in order to increase the overall effectiveness of family communication patterns about sex for this target group.