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19-09-2019 | Original Paper | Uitgave 2/2020

Journal of Child and Family Studies 2/2020

Sibling Relationship and Friendship in Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Journal of Child and Family Studies > Uitgave 2/2020
Fiorenzo Laghi, Antonia Lonigro, Susanna Pallini, Graziana Marziano, Roberto Baiocco
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The study was designed to compare sibling and best friend relationships engaged by adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).


Twenty adolescents with ASD, aged 15–18 years ((M = 16.80, SD = 0.95), and their typically developing (TD) siblings (n = 20), aged 18 to 24 years (M = 20.05, SD = 1.67), were recruited for the current study. Behaviors underpinning attachment, caregiving and affiliative systems were evaluated as well as negative interaction behaviors in sibling relationships and friendships. Non-parametric statistical analyses (the Wilcoxon signed-ranks test and the Mann–Whitney U-test) were carried out to verify the differences in sibling and best friend relationships.


Adolescents with ASD referred a higher presence of negative interaction behaviors in sibling relationships compared to friendships. However, when mixed and non-mixed friendships were distinguished, the descriptions of typically developing (TD) siblings and (TD) best friends overlapped for caregiving behaviors, revealing as both of them were depicted as a source of support and comfort by adolescents with ASD. A lower presence of behaviors underpinning attachment, caregiving and affiliations characterized relationships with best friends with disability compared to TD best friends.


This study highlighted that TD siblings provided a strong support for their siblings with ASD. The same role was also played by TD best friends.

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