A new study suggests an estimated 46.3 percent of adolescents with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) were the victims of bullying, according to a report published this week in the American Medical Association's Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.
The study originated at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis and is part of a pioneering program of research on adolescents and adults with autism led by Paul T. Shattuck, PhD, assistant professor. Lead author Paul Sterzing, PhD, assistant professor at the School of Social Welfare of the University of California, Berkeley, completed this study while he was a student at the Brown School.
"Ever more children are being diagnosed with autism," Shattuck says. "Yet we know so little about what life looks like for teens and young adults with autism. The evidence base is very poorly developed.
"This is one of several studies from our project here at Washington University that is breaking new ground by using national-level data to provide answers to this pressing national-level problem."
Bullying involves negative actions toward a peer and is characterized by a power imbalance — physical, social or cognitive — between the victim and the perpetrator. Until now, relatively little research has examined bullying involvement among adolescents with an ASD.
The study used nationally representative survey data to identify the prevalence of bullying involvement, compare prevalence rates of bullying involvement with adolescents with developmental disabilities that overlap with the core deficits of an ASD, and identify the social ecological correlates of bullying involvement.
The prevalence of bullying involvement for adolescents with an ASD was 46.3 percent for victimization and was "substantially higher" than the national prevalence estimates for the general adolescent population (10.6 percent).