Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 49, Issue 2, pp 692–703 | Cite as

Self-Focused Attention and Depressive Symptoms in Adults with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

  • Amy Burns
  • Mandy Irvine
  • Kate WoodcockEmail author
Original Paper


Adults with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) are at high risk of developing comorbid depressive symptoms and in the general population self-focused attention has been associated with depression. Here, we aimed to examine the relationships between aspects of self-focused attention and symptoms of depression in individuals with a diagnosis of ASD. 113 adults with a diagnosis of ASD completed self-report questionnaires. Results found that higher levels of brooding, and to a lesser degree, reflection predicted increased depressive symptoms. However, higher levels of private self-consciousness actually predicted decreased depressive symptoms. Differential relationships were observed for males and females. The current study highlights the importance of using a multidimensional approach to examining self-focused attention in ASD, and its important relationship with depression.


Autistic spectrum disorder Depression Rumination Brooding Reflection Private self-consciousness Public self-consciousness 



We wish to thank the autism services within the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust and the Northern Health and Social Care Trust, along with the Northern Ireland branch of the National Autistic Society, Autism NI, and Autism Initiatives for their support in recruiting participants for this study. A thank you also to Shauuna McLean for her help with data input. This paper has been prepared from a doctoral dissertation by Amy Burns.

Author Contributions

AB conceived of the study, participated in its design, collected and inputted the data, performed the statistical analysis and interpreted the findings and drafted the initial manuscript. MI participated in the design of the study, facilitated participant recruitment, contributed to the interpretation of the findings and provided critical revisions of the draft manuscript. KW acted as chief investigator, participated in the coordination and design of the study, provided technical support with the statistical analysis, contributed to the interpretation of the findings and provided critical revisions of the draft manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethics Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Ethics approval was granted by North East - Newcastle & North Tyneside Research Ethics Committee and informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Supplementary material

10803_2018_3732_MOESM1_ESM.docx (384 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 384 KB)


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Queens University BelfastBelfastUK
  2. 2.South Eastern Health and Social Care TrustDundonaldUK
  3. 3.School of PsychologyUniversity of BirminghamBirminghamUK

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