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Title: Why do autistic women develop restrictive eating disorders? : exploring social risk factors
Author: Baker, Hannah
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2020
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This thesis seeks to understand why women with Autism Spectrum Disorder (‘autism’) are more likely to develop restrictive eating disorders (‘REDs’). Part 1 is a conceptual introduction exploring the wider topic. To start, I introduce key terms and explore current understanding of autism among females, including the notion of ‘social camouflaging’; the masking of autistic traits and imitation of social behaviours, common among autistic women. Next, I discuss issues around prevalence and diagnosis of autism among those with REDs and the experience of eating disorder treatment for autistic individuals. Finally, a comprehensive review of the literature, outlining the multiple factors which might increase the likelihood of autistic women developing REDs, is presented. Part 2 documents an empirical study investigating the specific role of social risk factors for autistic women with REDs. It is hypothesised that difficulties gaining acceptance from others increases the likelihood of autistic women to perceive themselves as inferior. Moreover, that autistic women who attempt to ‘fit in’ through social camouflaging, are more vulnerable to such risk factors. Two groups of autistic women, with and without REDs, are compared on measures of social comparison, submissive behaviour, fear of negative evaluation and social camouflaging. Autistic women with REDs are found to compare themselves as significantly more inferior than autistic women without REDs. The clinical implications of the findings are discussed. Part 3 of the thesis is a critical appraisal which describes personal reflections on the research process, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and suggestions for future research.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available