Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 48, Issue 9, pp 2980–2994 | Cite as

Non-reciprocal Friendships in a School-Age Boy with Autism: The Ties that Build?

  • Jairo Rodríguez-MedinaEmail author
  • Henar Rodríguez-Navarro
  • Víctor Arias
  • Benito Arias
  • M. Teresa Anguera
Original Paper


This mixed-methods study examined differences in social interaction patterns between a school-age boy with autism and his friends, non-reciprocal friends, and non-friends during recess time at a mainstream school (third grade of elementary school). Through a combination of observational methodology and social network analysis with an idiographic, follow-up and multidimensional design approach, we used lag sequential and polar coordinate analysis to ascertain the associations between various interactive behaviors as a function of type of friendship relation. After 40 sessions, we found that the non-reciprocal friendship relations of the boy with autism could have significantly greater potential than his reciprocal friendships to increase active engagement and reduce the time he spent alone during recess.


Autism spectrum disorder Elementary school Friendship Observational methodology Recess Social network analysis 



The authors gratefully acknowledge the support of two Spanish government projects (Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad): (1) La actividad física y el deporte como potenciadores del estilo de vida saludable: Evaluación del comportamiento deportivo desde metodologías no intrusivas [Grant number DEP2015-66069-P, MINECO/FEDER, UE]; (2) Avances metodológicos y tecnológicos en el estudio observacional del comportamiento deportivo [PSI2015-71947-REDP, MINECO/FEDER, UE]. In addition, the authors thank the support of the Generalitat de Catalunya Research Group, GRUP DE RECERCA I INNOVACIÓ EN DISSENYS (GRID). Tecnología i aplicació multimedia i digital als dissenys observacionals [Grant number 2017 SGR 1405]. We want to thank family, teachers, school managers and the wonderful children that participated for their collaboration. We especially appreciate Lucía Jiménez Martín for her generous assistance with numerous hours of observation and coding. Thanks are also due to Ángel Blanco-Villaseñor and Vicenç Quera for assistance with choosing appropriate method of analysis.

Author Contributions

JR-M conceived, designed and led the study, performed the measurement, analysis, interpretation of the data and drafted the manuscript. HR-N contributed to the study conception and design, and participated in drafting the manuscript. VA designed the study, and participated in analysis and interpretation of the data. BA contributed to the study design and performed the measurement, analysis, and interpretation of the data. MTA contributed to the study design, coordinated analysis and interpretation of the data, and helped to draft the manuscript. All authors approved the final manuscript as submitted.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest. All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Supplementary material

10803_2018_3575_MOESM1_ESM.txt (11 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (TXT 10 KB)


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Transdisciplinary Research in EducationUniversity of ValladolidValladolidSpain
  2. 2.Department of Pedagogy, Faculty of EducationUniversity of ValladolidValladolidSpain
  3. 3.Department of Personality, Assessment and Psychological Treatments, Faculty of PsychologyUniversity of SalamancaSalamancaSpain
  4. 4.Department of Psychology, Faculty of EducationUniversity of ValladolidValladolidSpain
  5. 5.Faculty of Psychology, Institute of NeurosciencesUniversity of BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain

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