Sexuality and the Autism Spectrum: Implications for Individuals with the Broad Autism Phenotype

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Qualls, Lydia Ruth
Autism spectrum disorders; Broad autism phenotype; Sexuality behavior; Sexuality; Sexual orientation; Clinical Psychology; Developmental Psychology
thesis / dissertation description
Many people who are not diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) nevertheless have some symptoms of the disorder. These people are classified as having the Broad Autism Phenotype (BAP) and have some of the same difficulties as people with ASD. People with greater levels of the BAP may have difficulty in expressing their sexuality and may experience more same-sex attraction, as is commonly found in individuals with ASD. Previously, differences between individuals with higher vs. lower BAP traits have been measured categorically. In this study, my goal was to use continuous measures of BAP traits, sexual experiences, and sexual orientation in a typically developing (TD) population to see if those who have more characteristics of the BAP show similar patterns of sexual behavior and sexual orientation to those of people with ASD, as reported in the literature. I hypothesized that measures of the BAP would account for a significant amount of the variance in partnered sexual behavior, with people who have more BAP traits engaging in fewer partnered sexual behaviors. In addition, measures of the BAP were expected to account for a significant amount of the variance in sexual orientation, with people who have more BAP traits endorsing more same-sex attraction. Although BAP characteristics are not predictive of partnered sexual behaviors, one measure of BAP traits was a significant predictor of sexual orientation, β = 0.22, t = 2.72, p = .007, above and beyond the demographic variables, R² change = .04, F = 7.41, p = .007. This finding supports my hypothesis that individuals with more BAP characteristics resemble people with ASD in that they are more likely than TD individuals to experience same-sex attraction.