Publication Date



Open access

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Psychology (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Heather A. Henderson

Second Committee Member

Jill Ehrenreich-May

Third Committee Member

Michael Cuccaro


Social anxiety, friendship quality, and social competence have been studied considerably in typical development and autism, but the interrelations among all three constructs have not been assessed. This study examined mean differences in these variables in higher functioning children and adolescents with autism (HFA) and a comparison group of individuals without an autism diagnosis (COM). A mediation model tested whether friendship quality mediated the relation between social anxiety and social competence separately for the two diagnostic groups. Thirty-nine higher functioning children and adolescents with autism and 39 comparison children and adolescents without autism completed a series of questionnaires on social anxiety and friendship quality and were observed during an interaction with an unfamiliar peer. Parents also completed a measure of their child’s social anxiety. Behaviors observed during the interaction were coded to create an index of social competence. Significant group differences were found, as well as associations among several variables of interest. The mediation indicated non-significant indirect effects for both groups. Results are discussed in reference to potential implications for the development of treatment/interventions.


autism; high functioning autism; social anxiety; friendship; social competence