The Relationship between Social Knowledge, Social Behavior, and Peer Victimization in Adolescents with ASD
Objectives: Examine the relationship between social behavior, social knowledge, and peer victimization in adolescents with and without ASD. Determine the relative role of social behavior versus social knowledge in predicting victimization.
Methods: Fifty adolescents with ASD (Mage=12.69, SDage=1.97; 39 male) and 57 TD adolescents (Mage=13.41, SDage=1.74; 34 male) participated. All participants had an IQ≥70 (MASD=101.94, SDASD=16.58; MTD=107.96, SDTD=13.04). ASD diagnosis was confirmed via ADOS-2 (Lord, Rutter, DiLavore, & Risi, 2012). Participants completed the Olweus Bully Victim Questionnaire (OBVQ; Solberg & Olweus, 2003), a measure of peer victimization; the Social Skills Improvement System (SSIS; Elliott & Gresham, 2013), a measure of social behavior; and the Children’s Assertive Behavior Scales (CABS; Michelson & Wood, 1982), a measure of social knowledge. Associations between social knowledge and behavior and victimization were assessed via bivariate correlations. Specificity of significant correlations by diagnosis were probed using moderation models with z-transformed variables. The relative contribution of social knowledge vs. behavior in predicting peer victimization was evaluated using a multiple linear regression.
Results: Higher OBVQ ratings of peer victimization was positively correlated with CABS scores, indicating poorer social knowledge (r=.223, p<.05). Higher OBVQ scores were negatively correlated with social behavior on the SSIS (r=-.299, p<.01). Moderation analyses indicated that the relationship between social knowledge and peer victimization was moderated by ASD diagnosis (β =.460, p=.030), such that poorer social knowledge related to increased victimization only in the ASD group (β =.365, p=.002; Figure 1A). Similarly, the relationship between social behavior and peer victimization was moderated by ASD diagnosis (β =-.404, p=.050), such that it was present only in the ASD group (β =-.473, p=.001; Figure 1B). In the ASD group, multiple linear regression indicated that social behavior (β=-.497, p<.01), but not social knowledge (β =.096, p>.05), significantly predicts victimization.
Conclusions: This study suggests that social knowledge and social behavior deficits are related to increased peer victimization in adolescents with ASD, but not TD adolescents. Furthermore, within ASD, self-perception of social behavior, as opposed to social knowledge, more strongly predicts level of peer victimization. Youth with ASD who view themselves as less socially capable are particularly susceptible to instances of peer victimization, above and beyond any risk conferred by not explicitly knowing how to behave appropriately in a given social context.