Mediators of the Link Between Autistic Traits and Relationship Satisfaction in a Non-Clinical Sample

Department of Social Psychology, VU University Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders (Impact Factor: 3.06). 11/2009; 40(4):470-8. DOI: 10.1007/s10803-009-0888-z
Source: PubMed


People with ASD have deficits in their social skills and may therefore experience lower relationship satisfaction. This study investigated possible mechanisms to explain whether and how autistic traits, measured with the AQ, influence relationship satisfaction in a non-clinical sample of 195 married couples. More autistic traits were associated with lower relationship satisfaction for husbands but not for wives. Multiple mediation analyses revealed that husbands' responsiveness towards their wives, trust, and intimacy mediated this link between autistic traits and relationship satisfaction. These findings suggest that autistic traits may hamper men's relationship satisfaction because they impede relationship-specific feelings and behavior. There was no partner-effect of autistic traits, indicating that more autistic traits do not necessarily influence the partner's perceptions of relationship satisfaction.

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Available from: Sander Begeer,
    • "Parents of a child with ASD who express greater autism-related traits report reduced social interest, fewer friendships, and lower quality relationships (Losh et al., 2008; Piven et al., 1997). Furthermore, Pollmann et al. (2010) examined newlyweds and found that responsiveness (i.e. supportive reactions and attending to partners' needs; Reis et al., 2004) mediated the relationship between newlywed husbands' overall BAP traits and their relationship satisfaction. "
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    ABSTRACT: Background: Milder but qualitatively similar subclinical traits of autism known as the “broad autism phenotype” (BAP) have been associated with difficulties forming and maintaining quality relationships (Wainer et al., 2013). However, the process by which the BAP influences relationship outcomes remains unclear. Objectives: The current study examined how BAP traits in previously unfamiliar college roommates were associated with their interpersonal behaviors during relationship development and their relationship quality after several months of cohabitation. Social BAP traits (i.e., aloofness and pragmatic language abnormalities), but not nonsocial BAP traits (i.e., rigidity), were hypothesized to be associated with decreased relationship satisfaction and commitment to the relationship by the end of the study. Drawing upon Interpersonal Theory (Horowitz et al., 2006), the behaviors of warmth and dominance were hypothesized to mediate the effects of social BAP traits on relationship outcomes. Methods: Newly formed same-sex roommate dyads with limited to no previous familiarity (N = 160 individuals) were assessed every two weeks for 10 weeks. Participants initially completed the Broad Autism Phenotype Questionnaire (BAPQ), and subsequently reported on the warm and dominant behaviors exchanged within the dyad, as well as their overall relationship satisfaction and commitment at the end of the study. Results: We used Actor-Partner Interdependence Models (APIMs) to evaluate our hypotheses. An interaction of roommates’ aloof traits predicted relationship satisfaction, and simple slopes analyses revealed that low aloof participants were less satisfied with high aloof roommates (b = -.34 [95% CI: -.62, -.07], SE = .14, p = .016). Aloof traits were associated with both warmth (b = -.32, 95% CI [-.53, -.15], SE = .09, p < .001) and dominance (b = -.35, 95% CI [-.53, -.18] SE = .09, p < .001), with warmth mediating the effects of aloofness on relationship outcomes measured through indirect effects (i.e, ab). Participants’ aloofness predicted their own expressions of warmth, which subsequently predicted relationship satisfaction (ab = -.08, 95% CI [-.15, -.02], κ2 = .17). Also, high aloof participants evoked less warm behaviors from roommates, which led participants to feel less satisfied (ab = -.16, 95% CI [-.26, -.07], κ2 = .10) and less committed (ab = -.29, 95% CI [-.51, -.11], κ2 = .07). Neither pragmatic language abnormalities nor rigidity were associated with mediators or outcomes. Conclusions: Aloof traits in unfamiliar roommates were associated with relationship quality after 10 weeks of cohabitation, with behaviors of warmth mediating some of these effects. Roommates more similar on aloof traits, including those both high on aloofness, were more satisfied, suggesting that compatibility on this BAP feature may be particularly relevant to relationship satisfaction. Despite constituting an additional social BAP trait, pragmatic language abnormalities were not associated with relationship satisfaction. This suggests that not all social BAP traits are equally predictive of relationship outcomes, with social motivation (aloofness) more predictive than social competence (pragmatic language abnormalities).
    The International Meeting for Autism Research; 05/2015
    • "Our findings should inform researchers interested in attachment by indicating the degree to which attachment anxiety and avoidance are related to individual differences in a set of autismrelated traits which could be regarded as being rather innate or, at least, highly dispositional in nature (Lamport & Turner, 2014). Moreover, they will also inform researchers interested in the BAP by indicating the extent to which individuals high on autismrelated traits also tend to manifest the behavioural tendencies and thinking associated with anxious and avoidant attachment styles (especially given the specific influences that each of these two attachment styles have on romantic relationship functioning and, hence, well-being; Pollman et al., 2010). "
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    ABSTRACT: This study examined the relationship between autistic traits and adult attachment styles in a non-clinical sample of 326 university students. Multiple regression analysis was used to predict both attachment avoidance and attachment anxiety from levels of self-reported autistic traits. A significant unique relationship between autistic traits and attachment avoidance was found after controlling for all Big-Five personality traits, BIS/BAS, gender, and current relationship status. Hence, individuals who report more autistic-like behaviours, especially with respect to communication difficulties, are less likely to report sharing high levels of emotional closeness with romantic partners. On the other hand, no unique relationship between autistic traits and attachment anxiety was present.
    Personality and Individual Differences 02/2015; 79. DOI:10.1016/j.paid.2015.01.032 · 1.95 Impact Factor
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    • "Nonetheless, future research should consider the role of such demographic variables, particularly gender, on the expression of the BAP and its association with friendship experiences. While analyses examining gender effects were not conducted due to the current sample size, previous research suggests that gender may moderate the relationship between the BAP and relationship perceptions and quality (e.g., Pollmann et al. 2010), and that there are meaningful gender differences in friendship practices and experiences in young adult friendship (Bagwell et al. 2005). Finally, given that we used a non-clinical sample, only about 18 % of participants scored above the clinical cutoff for the BAP using the bestestimate BAPQ score. "
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    ABSTRACT: The broader autism phenotype (BAP) is a set of subclinical traits qualitatively similar to those observed in autism spectrum disorders. The current study sought to elucidate the association between self- and informant-reports of the BAP and friendships, in a non-clinical sample of college student dyads. Self-informant agreement of the BAP and friendship similarity was evaluated, and the Actor-Partner Interdependence Model was used to test how both friends' BAP characteristics jointly and uniquely contribute to the experiences of friendships. Results suggest self-informant agreement about the BAP, friendship closeness, quality, and conflict. Actor effects were observed for the BAP and friendship values, quality, conflict, and loneliness. Findings suggest that the BAP relates in meaningful ways to self-perceptions of friendship variables in the general population.
    Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 02/2013; 43(10). DOI:10.1007/s10803-013-1789-8 · 3.06 Impact Factor
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