Cage E & Troxell-Whitman Z (2020) Understanding the Relationships Between Autistic Identity, Disclosure, and Camouflaging. Autism in Adulthood, 2 (4), pp. 334-338. https://doi.org/10.1089/aut.2020.0016
Background: Camouflaging involves concealing an autistic identity, for example, by adopting nonautistic behaviors in social contexts. We currently know little about the relationship between autistic identity and camouflaging. Furthermore, other variables may mediate the relationship between camouflaging and identity, and this study examined whether disclosure (being openly autistic) might mediate the relationship. We predicted that fewer camouflaging behaviors would be associated with higher autistic identity when an individual is more open about being autistic.
Methods: One hundred eighty autistic adults (52% female, 42% male, 5% other gender identities, and 1% preferred not to say) took part in the study. They completed an online survey with measures of camouflaging, autistic identity, and disclosure of autistic status.
Results: We found a significant mediation effect such that autistic identity had an indirect negative effect on camouflaging mediated via disclosure. In other words, higher autistic identity linked to more disclosure, which in turn linked to fewer camouflaging behaviors. However, there was evidence for competitive mediation, such that the direct effect (the relationship between identity and camouflaging ignoring disclosure) was significant, with higher autistic identity linking directly to more camouflaging.
Conclusions: The initial hypothesis was confirmed, with higher autistic identity linked to less camouflaging via disclosure. This finding indicates that camouflaging can reduce when there is high autistic identification, and someone has openly disclosed that they are autistic to others. However, the direct effect between identity and camouflaging suggests that there may be conflicts for someone who identifies strongly with being autistic but continues to camouflage. Other variables may play a role in the relationship between identity and camouflaging, such as fear of discrimination, self-awareness, timing of diagnosis, age, ethnicity, or gender. The findings indicate the importance of safe nondiscriminatory environments where individuals can disclose and express their autistic identity, which may in turn reduce camouflaging.
camouflaging; autistic identity; disclosure; autism acceptance
Autism in Adulthood: Volume 2, Issue 4