Complementing or congruent? Desired characteristics in a friend and romantic partner in autistic versus typically developing male adolescents

Linda P. Dekker*, Esther J.M. van der Vegt, Anneke Louwerse, Kirsten Visser, Jan van der Ende, Athanasios Maras, Frank C. Verhulst, Kirstin Greaves-Lord

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Ideal friend and romantic partner characteristics related to self-perceived characteristics have been investigated in typically developing (TD) individuals, but not in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Considering the autistic symptoms and challenges, investigating these concepts in autistic individuals is relevant. Given the lack of consensus, identity-first ("autistic person") and person-first ("person with autism") language are mixed throughout, to cover all preferences. This study explored (1) the association between self-perceived characteristics and desires in a friend/romantic partner, as well as (2) compare two groups (ASD and TD) in their desires for a friend/romantic partner. Two matched groups (ASD and TD) of 38 male adolescents (age 14-19 years) reported on the desire for nine characteristics (i.e., funny, popular, nice, cool, smart, trustworthy, good looking, similar interests, and being rich) in a friend/partner, and to what extent they felt they themselves possessed seven characteristics (i.e., funny, popular, nice, cool, smart, trustworthy, and good looking). Results showed both groups sought a friend and partner similar to themselves on intrinsic characteristics (e.g., trustworthiness), but less similar on extrinsic and social status characteristics (e.g., being less cool and popular). Particularly intrinsic characteristics, more than extrinsic and social status characteristics, were valued in both partners and friends, regardless of group. No significant differences were found between groups concerning to what extent characteristics were desired. Overall, adolescents with ASD desire similar characteristics as TD adolescents in their potential romantic partners and friends. There is some indication that the match between self-perception and desired characteristics is different.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1153-1167
Number of pages15
JournalArchives of Sexual Behavior
Issue number3
Early online date14 Oct 2022
Publication statusPublished - 14 Oct 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project was financially supported by Yulius, a large mental health organization in the South-West of the Netherlands, together with Erasmus MC, from a grant of the Sophia Children’s Hospital Fund (Grant Number 617, titled Tackling Teenage: a multicenter study on psychosexual development and intimacy in adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder), as well as the Academische Werkplaats Autisme (Academic Workplace Autism—The Netherlands) which is a government-funded cooperation between several clinical and research centers in the Netherlands (ZonMw grant: Project number 639003101).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).


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