The impact of coping behaviors on perceived competence and social anxiety in the everyday social engagement of autistic adolescents

Yu-Wei Ryan Chen, Daphne Yih Ng, Mei-Hui Tseng*, Anita Bundy, Reinie Cordier

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Abstract

Individuals who cope well with challenges may engage in social situations more successfully. We examined the association between coping behaviors, self-perceived competence, and social anxiety in everyday social situations. A total of 133 participants between the ages of 10 and 16 years (82 autistic, 51 neurotypical) carried a mobile device that prompted them seven times each day for 7 days to record what they were doing and their perceived competence and social anxiety in that situation. We used the Coping Inventory to measure overall coping abilities (i.e. coping with the self and the environment). Multilevel analyses found that autistic adolescents were more likely than neurotypical peers to experience social anxiety while engaged in maintenance or productive activities with adults. While their ability to cope with the self was positively associated with perceived social competence, it was negatively associated with the ability to cope with environmental challenges. Furthermore, autistic adolescents with poor ability to cope with environmental challenges were more likely than those who coped well to be socially anxious when engaged in leisure activities with peers. Findings from this study can guide evaluation and intervention to improve the social experiences of autistic adolescents by helping them increase coping skills. Lay abstract Individuals who cope well with challenges may engage in social situations more successfully. We examined how well autistic adolescents coped, depending on how competent they felt and how much anxiety they experienced during social activities. We included 133 individuals (82 autistic, 51 neurotypical) between the ages of 10 and 16 years. Participants carried a mobile device that prompted them seven times a day for 7 days to record what they were doing, how competent they felt and how much anxiety they experienced. We used the Coping Inventory to understand how well participants coped with environmental challenges and met their needs for growth. Autistic adolescents were more likely than neurotypical peers to feel anxious while doing activities with adults. Autistic adolescents who had more difficulty coping with challenges were more likely to feel anxious when doing leisure activities with peers. Interestingly, autistic adolescents who coped better with challenges tended to feel less competent in social situations. However, those better able to meet their needs for growth tended to perceive their social competence positively. These findings can help practitioners develop strategies and programs to reduce the negative social experiences of autistic adolescents by helping them cope better.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1268-1279
Number of pages12
JournalAutism
Volume28
Issue number5
Early online date29 Sept 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2024

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