Why children with autism may be at risk of bullying

May 3, 2018, Lancaster University
Credit: Lancaster University

Children with autism may be at risk from bullying because they are more willing to accept unfair behaviour say psychologists.

"Our results suggest that with Autism Spectrum Disorder might be particularly susceptible to bullies exploiting their lower concern for personal gain and their increased tolerance of unfair ."

The research by Dr Calum Hartley and Sophie Fisher of Lancaster University involved young children playing trading games with a puppet.

In the Ultimatum Game and Dictator Game, the children offered stickers to the puppet and received offers in return.
Children could accept or reject the puppet's offers in the Ultimatum Game, but not the Dictator Game.

Both groups of children – one with ASD and one without – showed a willingness to share equally and neither prioritised self-interest.

But in the Ultimatum Game, children with ASD were 37% less likely to reciprocate fair offers and three times more likely to accept unfair offers of just one sticker.

"To a child with ASD, accepting an unfair offer may be favourable because it yields a greater physical reward than rejection."
The researchers suggested these differences in sharing between the two groups may be linked to deficits in social and cognitive development.

"Importantly, reduced reciprocity and decreased inequality aversion when sharing could severely impact children's ability to navigate the social world.

"We advocate that anti-bullying interventions address these risks by explicitly teaching children the importance of reciprocating prosocial actions, highlighting cues that indicate they are being treated unfairly, teaching prevention strategies, and role-playing good sharing behaviours."

Explore further: Self-centered kids? Blame their immature brains

More information: Calum Hartley et al. Do Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder Share Fairly and Reciprocally?, Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders (2018). DOI: 10.1007/s10803-018-3528-7

Related Stories

Self-centered kids? Blame their immature brains

March 7, 2012
A new study suggests that age-associated improvements in the ability to consider the preferences of others are linked with maturation of a brain region involved in self control. The findings, published by Cell Press in the ...

At what age do kids recognise fairness?

August 9, 2017
Children as young as seven have the same capacity as adults to make judgements on the anti-social behaviour of others.

Children also gossip

May 2, 2016
When it comes to selecting a cooperation partner, information about another person's reputation – for example as a generous person or a miser – may come handy. Many animal species make reputation judgements, but only ...

Recommended for you

Researchers uncover molecular mechanisms linked to autism and schizophrenia

December 13, 2018
Since the completion of the groundbreaking Human Genome Project in 2003, researchers have discovered changes to hundreds of places in the DNA, called genetic variants, associated with psychiatric diseases such as autism spectrum ...

Brain activity shows development of visual sensitivity in autism

December 11, 2018
Research investigating how the brain responds to visual patterns in people with autism has shown that sensory responses change between childhood and adulthood.

Study connects the genetic background of autistic spectrum disorders with stem cell dysfunction

December 4, 2018
Disorders of the autistic spectrum have been associated with hundreds of genetic variations, which have helped in identifying disturbed intracellular signalling pathways and molecular mechanisms typical to autism.

Home videos of children can be scored to diagnose autism, study says

November 27, 2018
Short home videos can be used to diagnose autism in children, according to a new study from the Stanford University School of Medicine.

Brain responses to language in toddlers with autism linked to altered gene expression

November 26, 2018
An international team of scientists, led by researchers at the University of Cyprus and University of California San Diego School of Medicine, have identified a previously unknown, large-scale association between molecular ...

How many kids have autism? US government measures three ways

November 26, 2018
How many American children have autism? The U.S. government answers that question at least three different ways and says the latest estimate—1 in 40 kids—doesn't necessarily mean the numbers are rising.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.