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Title: Examining the peer relationships and conflict experiences of adolescent girls and women on the autism spectrum
Author: Sedgewick, F.
ISNI:       0000 0004 7229 3826
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2018
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Despite a wealth of interest in, and research on, gender differences in the friendships and social relationships of neurotypical children and adults, there is a paucity of research on such differences in individuals on the autism spectrum. Only three published papers focus specifically on the friendships of autistic individuals in the same age range as the work of this PhD, and these have included predominantly male participants, who do not represent the range of female experiences. This PhD therefore sought to redress this imbalance by focussing on the peer relationship, friendships, and conflict experiences of adolescent girls, as well as women on the autism spectrum, in comparison to their autistic male and neurotypical female peers. Parental views on the relationships of autistic girls were also sought. In Chapter One, I review the literature investigating peer relationships amongst autistic adolescents, neurotypical adolescents, and autistic adults, focussing on their experiences of conflict within those relationships and their potential impact. Chapters Two and Three focus on data from adolescents. In Chapter Two, I present data from a mixed-methods study showing that autistic adolescents rate their best-friendships as like those of neurotypical adolescents, but that autistic adolescents experience far more peer conflict, and these experiences are qualitatively different for autistic girls compared to all other groups. In Chapter Three, I examine the factors that potentially underpin friendship strength and victimisation for male and female adolescents, following the results of Chapter Two and using data from the same participants. In Chapter Four, which focuses specifically on adult women, I report data from autistic and neurotypical adult women, examining similar constructs and questions to the adolescent study (Chapter Two). In Chapter Five, I directly compare the qualitative data from autistic girls, autistic women, and the girls’ parents. I take a developmental perspective, examining which factors might lead to the potential vulnerability described in Chapter Four, to understand which preventative measures might be used to support autistic girls as they grow up. In Chapter Six, I discuss the significance of these findings in the context of the extant literature on both autism in girls and women, and of the peer relationships of autistic adolescents. I conclude by suggesting that the relationships and social experiences of autistic girls and women are qualitatively different to those of both autistic boys and neurotypical girls and women. These findings suggest that autistic girls and women require specialised and targeted support to enable them to successfully and safely engage with their peers in adolescence and beyond.
Supervisor: Pellicano, E. ; Hill, V. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available