Sexuality and the Autism Spectrum: Implications for Individuals with the Broad Autism Phenotype

Thursday, May 11, 2017: 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Golden Gate Ballroom (Marriott Marquis Hotel)
L. R. Qualls1 and K. Hartmann2, (1)Virginia Consortium Program in Clinical Psychology, Norfolk, VA, (2)Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk, VA
Background: Differences in sexual behaviors exist between individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Typical Development (TD), with ASD individuals having fewer relationships and sexual experiences than their TD counterparts. Studies have also found differences in sexual orientation between people with ASD and TD, with women with ASD endorsing more lesbian or bisexual sexual identity and people of both genders with ASD endorsing a more asexual identity. Some people with TD have characteristics of autism but not the full disorder (Broad Autism Phenotype; BAP) and may have similar difficulties to people with autism. One area of difficulty may be expressing their sexuality, especially if they experience same-sex attraction. If the BAP is seen as being a part of the overall autism spectrum, then it is possible that any of the causes of increased incidence of non-heterosexuality and difficulty participating in sexual behavior in those with ASD could also affect those with the BAP.

Objectives: The purpose of this study is to measure the characteristics of the BAP, sexual experiences, and sexual orientation in a TD population to see if those who have more characteristics of the BAP show similar patterns of sexual behavior and sexual orientation to those of people with ASD, as reported in the literature.

Methods: Participants with typical development were recruited from a large mid-Atlantic University and from various online survey and social media sites. They were asked to complete a set of questionnaires that included the Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ) and Broad Autism Phenotype Questionnaire (BAPQ) to measure traits of the BAP, the Klein Sexual Orientation Grid (KSOG) to measure sexual orientation, and a modified Brief Index of Sexual Functioning (BISF). The survey was completed anonymously online and student participants were compensated with course credit.

Results:  Two sets of linear hierarchical multiple regressions will be calculated with the AQ and BAPQ serving as the predictor variables and sexual orientation and partnered sexual behaviors serving as the criterion variables. The same demographic predictors will be used for each regression equation. For Hypothesis 1, partnered sexual behavior as measured by the BISF will be predicted from the demographic variables entered at Step 1 and the AQ entered at Step 2. A similar analysis will then be run using the BAPQ instead of the AQ as the predictor in Step 2. For Hypothesis 2, sexual orientation as measured by the KSOG will be predicted from the demographic variables entered at Step 1 and the AQ entered at Step 2. A similar analysis will then be run predicting sexual orientation using the BAPQ instead of the AQ in Step 2.

Conclusions: Two hundred and fifty responses have been collected for this study and data analysis is underway. We hypothesize to find the following: BAP traits will negatively predict partnered sexual behaviors and positively predict greater homosexual sexuality, above and beyond the demographic variables.