Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Abbey Eisenhower

Second Advisor

Alice Carter

Third Advisor

Angel Fettig


Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) demonstrate characteristic deficits in the social domain, and may also present with accompanying behavior problems, which can interfere with their successful use of social skills in peer interactions. These social and behavioral challenges may impede their ability to form and maintain high quality relationships with their peers in the classroom. The current study examined the role of social skills of young children with ASD in predicting peer relationship quality in the classroom, as well as in predicting change in the quality of peer relationships one school year later. Additionally, the trajectory of the children’s social skills across a 1.5-year period was examined to determine if the pattern of change over time predicted peer relationship quality. Behavior problems were examined as a potential moderator of these relations between social skills and peer relationship quality. In the current study, social skills were relatively stable across three time points. Social skills predicted concurrent and subsequent peer inclusion, but did not predict change in peer inclusion over time when controlling for baseline peer inclusion. The presence of behavior problems predicted both being included and rejected by peers; an interaction effect between social skills and behavior problems was not supported. The findings of the current study suggest that social skills and behavior problems are both uniquely important in the development of positive, inclusive peer relationships, while behavior problems also predict higher levels of peer rejection for children with ASD. Clinical implications for interventionists and teachers are discussed to support the peer relationships of children with ASD in the classroom.


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