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Speed-Dating with Autism: Initial Romantic Attraction among Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder

  • Author(s): Whitham, Siena Elizabeth
  • Advisor(s): Kasari, Connie
  • et al.
Abstract

The social dynamics of adulthood present unique obstacles for individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Adults with ASD desire romantic relationships but have difficulty initiating and achieving these relationships (Ousley & Mesibov, 1991; Stokes, Newton, & Kaur, 2007). The processes of romantic attraction and relationship initiation for adults with ASD are currently unknown. To understand the processes associated with initial romantic attraction in adults with ASD, a speed-dating study was conducted with adults with ASD. Three speed-dating events were held, incorporating a total of 24 participants (18 male, 6 female), ranging from 18-30 years old. Female participants were repeated across events. Participants went on 5-6 `dates' each lasting 5-minutes, with members of the opposite gender. After each date, participants rated their initial romantic attraction towards each partner. Follow-up data was collected 1-month after each event. Results from Social Relations Model (SRM) analyses suggest that initial attraction was a function of the actor, partner, and the unique relationship between the couple, with greatest factor, for men, being the actor and the greatest factor, for women, being the unique relationship between the couple. Findings suggest that initial romantic attraction for adults with ASD was positively associated with perceived similarity, ideal partner preferences, and dyadic reciprocity, negatively associated with generalized reciprocity, and not associated with actual similarity. Further, similar to speed-dating studies with typical adults, participants matched from speed-dating events led to electronic communication between couples, and dates for approximately one third of matches.

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