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Exploring the link between self-harm and autistic traits – a mixed methods design and analysis

Morgan, C. (2023). Exploring the link between self-harm and autistic traits – a mixed methods design and analysis. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


Self-harm is increasingly recognised as a global health crisis on the rise in both children and adults. Individuals with autism spectrum condition (ASC) are more likely to self-harm and die by suicide compared to the general population. Early identification of ASC is crucial for mental health outcomes however, pursuing and gaining access to autism assessments can be a lengthy process, particularly with an increase in demand. ASC is a wide spectrum and those on the higher end of the spectrum may never be identified as having ASC. Females especially tend to go undiagnosed or be mis-diagnosed due to camouflaging or experience symptoms of ASC differently. This may suggest that there is a ‘lost’ population of individuals with high traits of ASC (as measured by the AQ10) but no diagnosis. A mixed methods design was conducted to identify the prevalence of individuals with traits of ASC (without a diagnosis) within a self-harming population and gain a richer understanding of their experiences through reflexive thematic analysis. Results indicated that the self-harming group had a significantly higher mean AQ10 score compared to the general population (M = 1.95, SD = 38.843); t(110) = 14.699, p = <.001). 43.24% in the self-harming group scored above clinical cut-off for ASC. These findings were further explained by the qualitative data, suggesting that self-harming individuals with high traits of ASC had felt different to their peers as children and this had continued into adulthood where they struggled particularly with socialisation – a key characteristic of ASC. It is key that this group is identified to reduce the rate of self-harm, offer them appropriate interventions and an opportunity for better understanding their differences and difficulties themselves, especially as research suggests self-harm as a crucial indicator for suicide.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > School of Health & Psychological Sciences Doctoral Theses
Doctoral Theses
[thumbnail of Morgan Thesis 2023_redacted PDF-A.pdf] Text - Accepted Version
This document is not freely accessible until 31 May 2026 due to copyright restrictions.


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