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This is the first longitudinal study to quantitatively evaluate changes in social network structure (SNS) and perceived social support (PSS) amongst first-year students on the autism spectrum (n = 21) and typically developing (TD; n = 182) students transitioning to university. The relative impact of changes in SNS/PSS, students' social anxiety and autistic traits, on first-year university transition outcomes were also examined. Both groups gained friends over time who provided better support quantity and quality during first year of university. Social anxiety showed long-term differential negative impact on students on the autism spectrum and TD students' academic, social and personal/emotional adjustments, and institutional attachment, suggesting stakeholders should focus on delivering interventions to reduce social anxiety to improve university transition outcomes.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of autism and developmental disorders

Publication Date





2832 - 2851


Centre for Applied Autism Research, Department of Psychology, University of Bath, Bath, BA2 7AY, UK.


Humans, Case-Control Studies, Longitudinal Studies, Anxiety, Social Support, Students, Universities, Adolescent, Friends, Female, Male, Young Adult, Autism Spectrum Disorder