29 May 2020
While many individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) desire a romantic relationship, they often report anxiety and uncertainty about what behaviors are expected in a dating context. The goal of the current study was to determine how individuals in the general population respond to dating behaviors that may be perceived as unexpected, confusing, inappropriate, or unattractive. Participants responded to fifty behaviors on the Dating Behaviors Questionnaire (e.g., “asks too many questions about you”), indicating their willingness to continue dating someone showing each behavior. Participants also completed the Short Autism Spectrum Quotient to index the degree to which they personally experienced autistic traits. A principal components analysis supported a four-factor structure for this questionnaire: Rude and Unattractive, Intrusive, Distant, and Idiosyncratic Behaviors. Gender significantly predicted variability across the four factors, such that women perceived the dating behaviors more negatively than men, especially Intrusive Behaviors. This result suggests that men may maximize romantic interest from a female partner by proceeding moderately in demonstrations of their own attraction. Compared to those with low autistic traits, participants with elevated autistic traits were significantly more willing to date others with Rude and Unattractive Behaviors and Idiosyncratic Behaviors and marginally more willing to date others showing Distant Behaviors. As such, individuals who are autistic or have elevated autistic traits may be more receptive to romantic relationships with other autistic individuals. However, individuals with autistic traits may have difficulty recognizing rude or inappropriate behaviors in a dating context, potentially leading to a heightened risk of sexual victimization.
McMahon, C. M., Henry, S., Stoll, B. & Linthicum, M. (2020). Perceptions of Dating Behaviors Among Individuals in the General Population with High and Low Autistic Traits. Sexuality and Disability. doi: 10.1007/s11195-020-09640-5
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