Individual differences in autonomy and sociotropy in relation to autistic traits, camouflaging and interpersonal functioning

Daniele Porricelli, Francesca Happé, Roland Zahn*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The social motivation hypothesis has proposed that autism/autistic traits result developmentally from lower motivation to interact socially. However, counter to this hypothesis, a growing body of research on ‘camouflaging’ suggests many autistic people or those with high autistic traits work hard to appear more ‘neurotypical’ to foster friendships. “Sociotropy/dependency” and “autonomy/self-reliance” characterise different attachment styles. Despite their importance for understanding interpersonal functioning, their relationship with autistic traits and camouflaging is unknown. To investigate this question in 168 participants (71 % females, Mean age = 30; SD = 10), we used online self-reported measures including depressive and social anxiety (i.e. affective) symptoms. A large fraction of variability in interpersonal functioning and camouflaging in the respective models was explained (R-square: 0.40 and 0.50, respectively). Autistic traits and autonomy were both negatively and independently associated with interpersonal functioning (β = −0.23, p = .002 and β = −0.14, p = .045, respectively) after controlling for the influence of sociotropy and affective symptoms. Furthermore, sociotropy was independently associated with camouflaging (β = 0.22, p = .001) after controlling for autonomy and affective symptoms. This may suggest that social motivation is dissociable from autistic traits which could explain why a subgroup of people with autistic traits is highly motivated to camouflage.

Original languageEnglish
Article number112715
JournalPersonality and Individual Differences
Early online date11 May 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 11 May 2024


  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Autistic traits
  • Autonomy
  • Camouflaging of autistic traits
  • Depressive symptoms
  • Interpersonal functioning
  • Personality
  • Social anxiety symptoms
  • Social support
  • Sociotropy


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