Psychological strengths and wellbeing: strengths use predicts quality of life, wellbeing and mental health in autism.

Emily C. Taylor, Lucy A. Livingston, Rachel A. Clutterbuck, Mitchell J. Callan, Punit Shah

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (SciVal)

Abstract

Strengths-based approaches to autism are increasing in research and clinical practice. Such approaches suggest facilitating autistic people to increase the use of their strengths leads to positive outcomes (e.g. improved well-being). However, despite proliferation of strengths-based clinical and educational interventions, these approaches are grounded on several assumptions that remain uninvestigated. Little is known about the specific strengths of autistic people, nor their current knowledge and use of their strengths. Critically, no research has directly tested if autistic people’s strengths knowledge and use is in fact associated with positive outcomes. Conducting an exploratory study, including the first well-powered comparisons of the self-reported strengths, strengths knowledge, and strengths use of matched autistic and non-autistic samples (N = 276), we found that autistic and non-autistic participants reported similar strengths. While autistic people reported lower strengths knowledge and use, strengths use in autism strongly predicted better quality of life, subjective well-being, and lower levels of anxiety, depression, and stress. Thus, strength-based approaches and clinical interventions designed to increase strengths use may pose a valuable method for boosting well-being in autism. However, we suggest such approaches should focus on individuals’ strengths more generally, rather than perceived autism-specific abilities. Lay abstract: It is often suggested that supporting autistic people to identify and use their strengths will lead to positive outcomes. However, little research has explored if this is true. To date, no research has explored whether autistic people already have knowledge of and use their strengths, nor whether increased strengths knowledge and use is linked to good outcomes, such as a better quality of life, well-being and improved mental health. Comparing large samples of autistic and non-autistic people, this study tested these unanswered questions. We found that autistic and non-autistic people reported similar strengths, but autistic people reported less knowledge and use of their strengths compared to non-autistic people. Importantly however, autistic people who reported using their strengths often had better quality of life, well-being and mental health than autistic people who reported using their strengths less frequently. We, therefore, propose that supporting autistic people to use their strengths more often may be a valuable way to boost well-being in this population.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAutism
Early online date13 Jan 2023
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 13 Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: ECT and RAC are respectively supported by a Whorrod Doctoral Scholarship and an Economic and Social Research Council studentship. LAL is supported by a fellowship from The Waterloo Foundation.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2023.

Keywords

  • autism
  • quality of life
  • strengths
  • strengths use
  • well-being

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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