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Title: Sense of self and gender identity in females with an autism spectrum condition
Author: Taylor, Amber
Awarding Body: University of Surrey
Current Institution: University of Surrey
Date of Award: 2019
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Background and Aims: Research suggests that females with an Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC) face specific identity threats by not 'fitting' with societal representations of gender and ASC. Despite this little is understood about how females form an understanding of self and what mechanisms facilitate positive identity formation. This study draws upon novel methods to address this gap in the literature asking how do young females with an ASC understand themselves? And how does gender influence this self-understanding? Method: Eight females with ASC, aged 11-16years, participated in two semi-structured interviewed guided by a photo-elicitation task. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) was used to analyse participants' accounts. Recruitment of an Expert Author, discussion with the research team and reflexive journals ensured credibility of the research findings. Results: IPA identified three superordinate themes; "I'm not like them", "So who am I and Where do I fit?" and "I accept who I am" outlining the struggles participants' faced in understanding themselves and how these were overcome. The themes were interpreted within an Identity Process Theory (IPT) framework. This showed that although some females navigated identity formation well, others faced multiple identity threats. To cope with these threats participants engaged in various strategies that negatively impacted their psychological wellbeing. Conclusions: The findings, facilitated by novel research methods, contribute to the growing field of ASC, gender and identity. Together they demonstrate the complexity of identity formation and highlight possible clinical interventions that may support this process. Future research could further explore what supports young females to develop a positive view of self and evaluate clinical interventions aimed at supporting this. Additional consideration could also be given to the protective role of alternate gender identities and the prevalence of gender dysphoria in ASC.
Supervisor: Gleeson, Kate ; Williams, Emma Sponsor: NHS Surrey & Borders (University of Surrey)
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Psych.) Qualification Level: Doctoral