The Relationship between Group Belonging, Subclinical Autistic Traits and Suicidal Ideation

Poster Presentation
Saturday, May 12, 2018: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Hall Grote Zaal (de Doelen ICC Rotterdam)
K. Monaghan1 and A. E. Robertson2, (1)University of Dundee, Dundee, United Kingdom, (2)Coventry University, Coventry, United Kingdom

The prevalence of suicidal ideation in individuals with Asperger syndrome (AS) is estimated to be nine times higher than in the general population (Cassidy et al., 2014). Individuals with AS and Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASC) share behavioural characteristics (autistic traits), which generate difficulties in social integration (Jobe & White, 2006). There is evidence that suicidality and autistic traits are related, and that 'thwarted belongingness' is a key component (Cassidy & Pelton, 2017). In the general population, group identification (the subjective feeling of belonging to a group) is a protective factor for mental distress (Sani et al., 2012). However, it is unknown whether autistic traits are related to group identification, and how both of these factors might be associated with suicidal ideation.


H1 – There will be a significant negative relationship between autistic traits and group identification

H2 – Autistic traits and group identification will both significantly predict suicidal ideation

Open-ended questions – The aim was to determine whether there was a difference between any interpersonal stressors reported by those with high and low levels of autistic traits.


The Autistic Spectrum Quotient (AQ; Baron-Cohen et al., 2001), Group Identification Scale (GIS: Sani et al., 2015), Beck Scale for Suicide Ideation (BSSI; Beck, Kovacs & Weissman, 1979) were administered to 108 individuals. AQ scores ranged from 4 to 42 (M = 16.68; SD = 8.28). The sample was split at the median, and therefore those with a score of 17 or more were classed as belonging to the ‘high’ AQ group, with the remainder belonging to the ‘low’ AQ group. Mean group identification scores ranged from 4 to 27 (M = 19.10; SD = 4.96).

Four open-ended questions were presented to participants. They explored each individual’s: i) major life stressors, ii) methods of coping, iii) self-awareness of support required, and iv) knowledge about autism spectrum conditions and experiences of distress.


BSSI: The overall model demonstrated that gender, autistic traits and group identification statistically significantly predicted suicidal ideation, F(3,104) = 9.809, p < .001, R2 Adj. = .198

Open-Ended Questions: A content analysis indicated that those within the high AQ group reported more interpersonal stressors, more self-harm and substance misuse and less socially supported coping methods than those in the low AQ group.


Autistic traits and group belonging significantly predict suicidal ideation in adults in the general population. Based on the results from this study, we suggest that research should explore the subjective dimension of social integration in ASC, in order to help further our understanding of suicidal thoughts in this population. There is evidence that positive identification with the autistic community is associated with positive mental health outcomes (Cooper et al., 2017), and we suggest that future research also consider other groups.