Graduation Year

Spring 2013

Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

Psychology

Reader 1

Stacey Wood

Reader 2

Judith LeMaster

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© 2013 Jessica N. Baker

Abstract

Autism spectrum disorders are developmental disorders characterized by the presence of three core features: impairments in communication and social interaction, the presence of repetitive behaviors and restricted interests. Estimates from the Center for Disease Control indicate that 1 in 88 individuals in the United States will be diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. Siblings are especially affected by the birth of an autistic sibling because of increased stress related to living with an autistic sibling. Increased environmental stress and the genetic component of autism has led to the hypothesis that typically developing siblings may be at a risk for behavioral, emotional and social maladjustments, even in the absence of an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis. The current study sought to compare social skills and levels of social anxiety, as measured by self-report scales, of siblings of individuals with ASD to siblings of typically developing individuals across two age ranges. Results indicate that social skills and levels of social anxiety did not differ between individuals with siblings on the autism spectrum and those with typically developing siblings, for both individuals under the age of 18 and over the age of 18. The current results indicate that unaffected siblings of individuals with autism do not differ from their peers with typically developing siblings in measures of social skills, social anxiety and qualitative autistic traits. Environmental factors associated with living with an autistic sibling and the genetic component of autism does not appear to negatively affect the development of neurotypical siblings at any age.

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