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Disclosing an autism diagnosis: a social identity approach

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-08-16, 09:01 authored by Katie Togher, Sarah JaySarah Jay

Autistic people face a difficult dilemma around whether or not to disclose their diagnosis because autism is a stigmatized social group. The central aim of this study was to examine if a social identity approach could be useful in understanding the factors that predict the likelihood of autistic adults disclosing their autism diagnosis in social settings, in the workplace, in educational settings and in the family. The social identity approach predicts that autistic people may cope with this dilemma by using an individualistic strategy to distance from their autistic social identity. Alternatively, they may embrace their autistic social identity and use a collective strategy to resist stigma and advocate for autism. We present a survey based cross-sectional study (n = 175) with autistic adults living in Ireland. Participants completed a series of measures; autism social identification, stigma consciousness, and individualistic and collective strategy use to assess disclosing in the four settings. The overall models in each of the four regressions were significant. Autism social identification positively predicted disclosure in social, work-place and educational settings, while stigma consciousness negatively predicted disclosure in the family and in the workplace. Interestingly, over and above these predictors individualistic strategy use negatively predicted disclosure in each of the four settings, while collective strategy positively predicted disclosure in social, educational and family settings. Our novel social identity approach was useful for explaining autistic adult’s strategies to cope with the complex disclosure dilemma. Strengths, limitations, and directions for future research are discussed.



Autism Research pp. 1-12


International Society for Autism Research and Wiley Periodicals LLC

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