Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Abbey Eisenhower

Second Advisor

Alice Carter

Third Advisor

Kristen Bottema-Beutel


Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) exhibit characteristic deficits in the social domain, which can interfere with their ability to form and maintain high quality relationships with their peers. Indeed, children with ASD are generally regarded as having lower quality friendships than typically developing (TD) children. However, based on a small emerging literature, children with ASD, despite reporting having lower quality friendships, indicate that they are satisfied with their friendships at similar levels to their TD peers. This apparent discrepancy between friendship quality and satisfaction for children with ASD as compared to TD children suggests that another factor may account for why satisfaction is still high in spite of lower quality friendships. Namely, friendship expectations (i.e., personal perceptions about the characteristics friends should possess and behaviors they should engage in) may differ between children with and without ASD, and these expectations may moderate the association between children’s ratings of quality and satisfaction. Understanding these patterns of relations among dimensions of friendship is critical to providing children with ASD with effective interventions as may be needed to support their social development. The current study investigated the associations between friendship expectations, quality, and satisfaction in middle childhood with a sample of 58 children, comprised of 22 children with ASD and 36 TD children. Contrary to past research, results of the current study indicated that children with ASD were less satisfied with their friendships than TD children. Further, children with ASD demonstrated a stronger association between friendship quality and friendship satisfaction than TD children. Friendship expectations did not moderate associations between friendship quality and friendship satisfaction for children with ASD. Additionally, this study explored the association between children’s friendship quality and satisfaction with indicators of children’s overall well-being (global self-worth and quality of life) and found that children with ASD evidenced stronger associations between both friendship quality and friendship satisfaction with quality of life. Clinical implications are discussed.


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