Bullying has become a major national concern, particularly as it affects children with disabilities. The current study aimed to determine the association between psychiatric comorbid conditions, involvement in bullying (victim, bully, or bully–victim), and the immediate psychological correlates of bullying among children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs).
A national sample of 1221 parents completed a survey dedicated to the bullying and school experiences of their child with ASD, reporting on the immediate consequences of bullying involvement, including their child's psychological well-being and any psychiatric comorbidity. Multivariate logistic regressions were performed to determine whether specific psychiatric comorbidities were associated with an increased risk of involvement as victim, bully, or bully–victim. Analyses of variance determined the relationship between bullying frequency and psychological functioning. All models adjusted for child and school covariates.
Children who were frequently victimized were more likely to present with internalizing symptoms, whereas children who frequently bullied others were more likely to exhibit emotion regulation problems. Children who were identified as frequent bully–victims presented with both internalizing symptoms and emotion regulation problems. Children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and depression were more likely to have been victimized, whereas children with conduct disorder (CD) or oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) were more likely to have bullied other children. Children identified as bully–victims were more likely to have ADHD, CD, or ODD.
Children with ASDs who had displayed bullying behaviors in the past month exhibited psychological impairments, including psychiatric comorbidity. The frequency of bullying behaviors was significantly associated with the level of impairment.