Psychology Student Wins Undergraduate Thesis Award

Psychology Student Wins Undergraduate Thesis Award

Carleton Psychology student Kojo Mintah was one of eight students who received “best presentation” prizes at the 41st Ontario Psychology Undergraduate Thesis Conference held  April 29 at Guelph University. A total of 151 top Psychology students from around the province participated in this conference.  His presentation was entitled, “Autistic cognitions hamper casual romantic experiences but do not preclude committed relationships”. Kojo’s Honours project was supervised by Shelley Parlow.

Abstract: It is widely thought that people with autism prefer to be alone and do not seek out romantic and other relationships. This may not be true, at least for some. For example, Jobe and White (2007) reported that although they had fewer friendships, university students with sub-clinical autistic traits were as likely to have a romantic relationship as their non-autistic peers and their relationships were of a longer duration. A total of 232 university students completed an online survey which included the Autism Quotient (AQ) and measures of perceived ability/experiences with friendships, casual dating, and committed relationships.  Correlation analyses revealed that higher AQ scores were negatively associated with socializing behaviours, perceived competencefor forming friendships, and casual and committed relationships. Higher scores were negatively associated with sexual activity; sexual knowledge, and marriage expectations, and positively with dating anxiety. AQ scores were not associated with current relationship status or length of current committed relationship. A multiple regression analysis revealed a 3-factor model best accounted for the variability in AQ scores: social interests/ability, dating anxiety, and sexual knowledge. These findings support and extend the observations of Jobe and White (2007). Participants with autistic traits had fewer friendships but were as likely tobe in committed relationships and for the same length of time as their non-autistic peers. Autistic traits were associated with social and sexual incompetence and experiencing dating anxiety. We speculate that these traits are detrimental for friendship formation and dating, but facilitate stability in committed relationships whether good or bad.

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