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Self-Presentation in Children and Adolescents with High-Functioning ASD

Friday, 3 May 2013: 14:00-18:00
Banquet Hall (Kursaal Centre)
A. M. Scheeren1, H. M. Koot1 and S. Begeer1,2, (1)VU University, Amsterdam, Netherlands, (2)University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia

A successful self-presentation requires an understanding of others’ perspectives as well as motivation to convey a positive image of oneself. Children and adolescents with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are known to have difficulties adopting others’ perspectives and also show a reduced social motivation. Therefore, the self-presentation skills of children and adolescents with ASD may be particularly impaired. Indeed, two previous small-scale studies indicated that children with ASD are less strategic in their self-presentation, that is, their self-presentation was less attuned to specific audience preferences (Begeer et al., 2008; Scheeren et al., 2010).



This is a first large-scale study to compare the self-presentation skills of children and adolescents with high-functioning ASD (HFASD) to those of typically developing (TD) peers.


Ninety-six school-aged children and adolescents with HFASD and 56 TD peers (6-18 years) participated in this study. At the start of the interview each participant was asked to introduce him/herself to the interviewer (baseline condition). Later the participant was again asked to tell something about him/herself, but now the participant was told that the information would be used to select children for a prize-winning game (self-promotion condition). Number of strategic self-statements (i.e., self-statements emphasizing game-related abilities) was tallied in each condition. We used a fun-rating to estimate children’s motivation to participate in a prize-winning game and a parent questionnaire (Social Responsiveness Scale) as a global index for the child’s everyday social motivation and social cognition.


A MANOVA with Group (HFASD vs. TD) and Age (primary vs. secondary school) as between-subject variables, Condition (baseline vs. self-promotion) as a within-subject variable, and proportion of strategic self-statements as a dependent variable did not show a main effect of Group or Age, but did reveal a Condition effect: all participants used significantly more strategic self-statements in the self-promotion condition compared to the baseline condition. A Group x Age x Condition interaction effect was found. Post-hoc analyses showed that TD children and adolescents performed largely similarly in both conditions, yet within the HFASD group children increased significantly more in their strategic self-statements in the self-promotion condition compared to adolescents (Age x Condition effect). Also, there was a trend (p =.06) for adolescents with HFASD to increase less in strategic self-statements compared to TD age mates. Proportion of strategic self-statements was positively correlated with fun-ratings only in TD children (r = .45) and social motivation only in children with HFASD (r = .45), but was unrelated to children’s social cognition.


Intact strategic self-presentation of school-aged children with HFASD, but a reduced strategic self-presentation of adolescents with HFASD suggests that motivation, more so than social understanding (which maturates with age), may play a crucial role in their self-presentation. Indeed, within the children’s groups, we found positive associations between measures of motivation and the degree of strategic self-presentation. A lack of social motivation may be more characteristic for older than young children with HFASD.

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