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Cumulative risk effects in the bullying of children and young people with autism spectrum conditions

Hebron, J and Oldfield, J and Humphrey, N (2016) Cumulative risk effects in the bullying of children and young people with autism spectrum conditions. Autism. ISSN 1362-3613

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Abstract

Students with autism are more likely to be bullied than their typically developing peers. However, several studies have shown that their likelihood of being bullied increases in the context of exposure to certain risk factors (e.g. behaviour difficulties and poor peer relationships). This study explores vulnerability to bullying from a cumulative risk perspective, where the number of risks rather than their nature is considered. A total of 722 teachers and 119 parents of young people with autism spectrum conditions participated in the study. Established risk factors were summed to form a cumulative risk score in teacher and parent models. There was evidence of a cumulative risk effect in both models, suggesting that as the number of risks increased, so did exposure to bullying. A quadratic effect was found in the teacher model, indicating that there was a disproportionate increase in the likelihood of being bullied in relation to the number of risk factors to which a young person was exposed. In light of these findings, it is proposed that more attention needs to be given to the number of risks to which children and young people with autism spectrum conditions are exposed when planning interventions and providing a suitable educational environment.

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