Title page for ETD etd-06082010-101827

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Wilkins, Jonathan
Author's Email Address wilkjon@gmail.com
URN etd-06082010-101827
Title The Relationship Between Social Skills and Challenging Behaviors in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Department Psychology
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Matson, Johnny Committee Chair
Copeland, Amy Committee Member
Davis, III, Thompson Committee Member
Rizzuto, Tracey Committee Member
Norris, Janet Dean's Representative
  • autism spectrum disorders
  • challenging behaviors
  • social skills
Date of Defense 2010-04-15
Availability unrestricted
The autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are among the most serious and debilitating conditions with onset in early childhood. Deficits in social interaction skills are considered to be the hallmark set of symptoms and are given the most weight in current diagnostic systems. Although not considered among the core symptoms of ASD, challenging behaviors in the form of physical aggression, property destruction, and self-injury also commonly occur. Challenging behaviors of this nature are a salient feature of ASD because of their potential to cause harm to self and others as well as limit a child’s access to opportunities in community and academic settings. However, at this point little is known about the relationship between these two variables. In the present study, the relationship between social skills and challenging behavior in children with ASD was explored through a series of correlational and regression analyses. In Study 1, it was demonstrated that this relationship was stronger for children with ASD than typically developing controls and that measures of social skills could significantly predict variance in measures of challenging behavior. This relationship was explored in further detail for the ASD group in Study 2, where it was determined that the social skills deficits/excesses exhibited by these children predicted variance in challenging behavior above and beyond that of ASD symptom severity, most notably with regard to repetitive, self-injurious, and overall levels of challenging behaviors. Implications of the results and directions for future research are discussed.
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