Explicit and implicit self-esteem in youth with autism spectrum disorders

Renske van der Cruijsen, B Boyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Although the link between self-esteem and psychopathology has been well established, studies on self-esteem in individuals with autism spectrum disorder are lacking. In this study, we aimed to (1) compare explicit and implicit self-esteem of youth with autism spectrum disorder to typically developing peers and to (2) explore relationships of implicit-, explicit-, and discrepant self-esteem measures with co-occurring internalizing and externalizing problems in youth with autism spectrum disorder. For this purpose, 25 individuals with autism spectrum disorder and 24 individuals as age- and intelligence quotient–matched controls aged 8–16 years participated in this study. Results showed lower explicit self-esteem in autism spectrum disorder compared to typically developing youth and no differences in implicit self-esteem between groups. In youth with autism spectrum disorder, low explicit self-esteem was related to co-occurring depression symptoms, whereas lower implicit self-esteem was related to externalizing symptoms. These results show that youth with autism spectrum disorder are at risk for developing low explicit self-esteem, which appears to be related to often co-occurring internalizing symptoms. This emphasizes the need to focus more on self-esteem in assessment and treatment of youth with autism spectrum disorder. Lay abstract: Having a stable and good self-esteem is important for maintaining a good mental health. However, having low self-esteem is a risk factor for developing depressive, anxious, or uncooperative/aggressive symptoms. While many individuals with an autism spectrum disorder have these symptoms, there is a lack of studies on self-esteem in this group. We studied self-esteem of youth with autism spectrum disorder and the connection to their co-occurring symptoms. To do this, different self-esteem profiles were investigated, including explicit self-esteem (how someone says their self-esteem is after reflecting on it), implicit self-esteem (how someone’s self-esteem is on a task that does not give them time to reflect on it), and the difference between both (high explicit with low implicit self-esteem or low explicit with high implicit self-esteem). Our results show that youth with autism spectrum disorder report lower self-esteem than youth without autism spectrum disorder when they have reflected on it (explicit self-esteem). And parents of children with autism spectrum disorder report that their children have even lower self-esteem. Implicit self-esteem was the same for youth with and without autism spectrum disorder. Furthermore, we found that within youth with autism spectrum disorder, there was a negative relationship between explicit self-esteem and depressive symptoms, and between implicit self-esteem and externalizing behavior. Taken together, youth with autism spectrum disorder are at risk for developing low self-esteem and when they do they have a higher risk of developing co-occurring problems. Therefore we stress that it is important to measure and improve the self-esteem of youth with autism spectrum disorder, so they develop less co-occurring problems and have a higher quality of life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)349-360
Number of pages12
JournalAutism
Volume25
Issue number2
Early online date15 Oct 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2020.

Research programs

  • ESSB PSY

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