Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Program Name/Specialization

Developmental Psychology


Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Dr. Nicky Newton

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


A personal identity answers the questions: who am I and where do I fit in the world? While these are questions that all persons may encounter, I examine identity formation, as conceived by Marcia (1980), in a community sample of females diagnosed (or self-identified) as having an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), given that less is known regarding the identity process that autistic females undergo. More specifically, I examine the relationship between autism traits and the achieved and diffuse identity statuses. Research indicates the existence of a female autism phenotype (Lai et al., 2015), such that autistic females often present with different outward symptoms, as compared to autistic males (e.g., Dworzynski et al., 2012; Lai et al., 2011; Auyeung et al., 2009). In addition, many autistic persons profess to feeling different (Perkins & Berkman, 2012); thus, it is conceivable that masking autism characteristics, due to feeling different or unique, may impact personal identity development and well-being.

Participants completed measures of identity formation, autism traits, and well-being, and were asked to respond to a vignette about feeling different. Results indicated a number of interesting findings: age was positively associated with well-being and with the achieved identity status, and negatively associated with the diffuse status, and the presence of masking moderated this finding; the relationship between time since diagnosed and identity status was also moderated by age; and the relationship between age and well-being was moderated by feeling different. Additionally, older females more often spoke about the positive impact of an autism diagnosis on their identities. Ultimately, this study provides novel information regarding identity development, and supports the existence of the female autism phenotype.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season