“One of the most striking findings of our study was that that the friendships of autistic girls were more like those of non-autistic girls than they were like the friendships of autistic boys,” said Felicity Sedgewick from University College London.
The findings showed, however, they are not as good as girls without autism at recognising conflict in those friendships.
Autism is a medical condition which refers to a group of complex disorders of brain development characterised by difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with other people and in using language and abstract concepts.
The study primarily showed that both autistic and non-autistic girls had quite similar scores for social motivation and friendship quality, although autistic girls reported significantly less conflict in their best friendships.
Whereas, autistic boys were found to be less socially motivated, with qualitatively different friendships that were less secure, helpful or close than non-autistic boys.
In order to understand differences between autistic girls and boys in terms of various autistic features, Sedgewick explained that it is imperative to look at possible differences , however, in the longer run it would help in identifying autism in girls.
The researchers analysed responses of 46 young people aged between 12 and 16 years and of similar intellectual ability — 13 autistic girls, 13 non-autistic girls, 10 autistic boys and 10 non-autistic boys — on a number of psychological measures.
However, the further investigations and interviews with some participants led to a finding which had an exception that is, autistic girls reported higher levels of relational aggression.
“Our findings show that the problems dealing with social relationships are more subtle in autistic girls than they are in autistic boys, which might contribute to the difficulties detecting autism in girls,” Sedgewick said.
The study was presented at the annual conference of British Psychological Society’s Division of Educational and Child Psychology in London.