Subtle Differences in Subjective Wellbeing for Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Poster Presentation
Thursday, May 10, 2018: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Hall Grote Zaal (de Doelen ICC Rotterdam)
P. Ashton and M. A. Stokes, Deakin University, Burwood, Australia
Background: Adolescents with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are prone to negative life experiences due to challenging social experiences and ASD symptomology. This is thought to have a detrimental effect on their subjective wellbeing compared to their typically developing (TD) peers, resulting in differences in levels of subjective wellbeing. Results to date have been equivocal, some finding reductions in wellbeing, other not.

Objectives: Therefore, the current study aimed to establish how wellbeing differs across gender and across diagnosis in a group of adolescents with and without ASD.

Methods: Participants aged 10-21 including high functioning adolescents with ASD (n=59), and a TD control group (n=35). Participants were then gender and aged matched giving 24 pairs. Participants completed the Personal Wellbeing Index – School Children Edition as measure of subjective wellbeing, the Rosenberg General Self-Esteem scale, and the Autism Spectrum Quotient to assess number of autistic traits.

Results: A difference between ASD and TD adolescents was found (p<0.05). No differences were found between adolescent males and females with ASD on wellbeing scores. Mediation analysis indicated that self-esteem fully mediated the relationship between the strength of autistic traits and subjective wellbeing. Linear regression analyses indicated that autistic traits did not predict wellbeing in the ASD group, but were negatively associated with wellbeing in the TD group (p<0.05). Self-esteem was a significant predictor of wellbeing in both groups (p<0.05), although strongest in the TD group. ASD and TD pairs were matched based on age and gender, with a significant difference found on wellbeing scores between matched pairs (p<0.05). Pairs were then separated and reanalysed with ASD participants having higher or lower wellbeing than their TD matched pair placed into two separate analyses. Matched pairs t-tests revealed that there for those with lower wellbeing were significantly lower than their matched pair, while those who were higher also were significantly higher.

Conclusions: Matched participants indicated that adolescents with and without ASD differ on wellbeing. But interestingly, not all adolescents with ASD had lower wellbeing, being higher than their age and gender matched pair. Nonetheless, in more instances the participant with ASD had lower wellbeing than their TD partner. These results suggest a considerably more complex picture with wellbeing in ASD, and may indicate something of the nature of ASD, in that those with ASD may not have sufficient insight to address scales such as the PWI. Alternatively, these differences may suggest an approach to intervening in subjective wellbeing among those with ASD. Either way, these results suggest further research would be useful.