Friends and Lovers: The Relationships of Autistic and Neurotypical Women

Felicity Sedgewick, Laura Crane, Vivian Hill, Elizabeth Pellicano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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Background: Little is known about the friendships and relationships of autistic adults, despite decades of research evidence showing the benefits of close relationships for neurotypical adults. Even less is known about the relationships of autistic women, or how their relationships compare with those of neurotypical women. This mixed-methods study, therefore, examined differences in the social relationships of autistic women in relation to their neurotypical counterparts.

Methods: Thirty-eight women (19 autistic women, 19 neurotypical women), aged between 20 and 40 years, completed the Unidimensional Relationship Closeness Scale, The Awareness of Social Inference Test, and a semistructured interview about their current and former friendships and romantic relationships.

Results: In many ways, the social relationships and experiences of autistic women were much like those of neurotypical women. Autistic women, however, had greater difficulty with social inference skills, and reported experiencing more negative social situations. This was particularly the case in terms of social and sexual vulnerability, a feature that the autistic women themselves linked to their difficulties with social inference. Despite these challenges, autistic women were happier and more self-assured in their adult relationships than they remembered being in adolescence.

Conclusions: These findings highlight an urgent need for specific and tailored personal safety training and support for autistic women—and, by extension, autistic girls—to ensure that they can enjoy a safe transition to adulthood and positive adult relationships.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)112-123
Number of pages12
JournalAutism in Adulthood
Issue number2
Early online date20 Dec 2018
Publication statusPublished - 13 Apr 2019

Structured keywords

  • SoE Centre for Psychological Approaches for Studying Education


  • autism
  • women
  • relationships
  • adult
  • conflict
  • vulnerability


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