‘Who am I?’ Do conceptions of personal identity and acculturation relate to psychological wellbeing and positive self-concept in autistic adolescents?

Lily Cresswell

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Autistic adolescents are at increased risk of experiencing mental health difficulties in adolescence. One factor that might contribute to this is the task of identity development; working out ‘who am I?’ and ‘where do I fit in?’ There has been recent interest and development in the idea that autistic people are building an emerging culture with its own unique identity, and qualitative studies have suggested there is variation in how autistic adolescents relate to autistic culture. The current study therefore aims to explore the relationship between personal identity, acculturation (alignment to autistic and non-autistic culture) and psychological wellbeing, including positive self-concept, in autistic adolescents. Twenty-nine (male = 27, female = 3) adolescents with a diagnosed autism spectrum condition completed self-report measures investigating personal identity, acculturation and psychological wellbeing. Findings revealed that psychological wellbeing was not related to personal identity strength. Desrciptive data indicated that those who aligned themselves only to non-autistic culture appeared to have better psychological wellbeing scores and were able to generate a higher proportion of positive statements about themselves than those who aligned themselves to neither culture. Only a small number of participants aligned only to autistic culture, which raises questions about the process and trajectory of acculturation for autistic adolescents. Findings suggest that autistic adolescents should be helped and encouraged to explore both autistic and non-autistic culture, and what autism means to them, so that they can make choices and commitments regarding their cultural identity.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Department of Psychology
  • Cage, Eilidh, Supervisor
Award date1 Nov 2018
Publication statusUnpublished - 2018


  • Adolescence
  • Identity
  • autism
  • mental health

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