Autistic traits, adolescence, and anti-social peer pressure
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Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, United Kingdom
Submission date: 2019-11-05
Final revision date: 2020-03-24
Acceptance date: 2020-03-25
Online publication date: 2020-04-08
Publication date: 2020-07-20
Current Issues in Personality Psychology 2020;8(2):131-138
The potential role of autism as a moderator of conformity has recently been investigated by a small number of studies. However, as yet, no consensus has emerged as to whether autism or autistic traits can moderate the degree to which people attend to and are influenced by social pressure, nor whether there are specific circum-stances under which this might occur. The current study adds to this ambiguous literature by looking at whether autism and autistic traits are associated with conformity in the context of adolescent peer pressure.

Participants and procedure:
A sample of 12-16 year old students completed questionnaire measures of peer conformity (e.g., in relation to smoking, skipping school, etc.), resistance to peer influence, and autistic traits. Approximately half had an au-tism-related diagnosis, and none had an intellectual impairment.

Controlling for age, gender, and academic ability, we found that degree of autistic traits was associated with reduced peer conformity, while a diagnosis of autism was not. In contrast, neither autism nor autistic traits were related to resistance to peer influence.

These results are contextualised in terms of past research and positioned within a broader model of individual differences and conformity in which autistic traits moderate the degree to which a person perceives peer influ-ence, while resistance to peer influence moderates the degree to which one conforms to peer influence. Possi-ble future avenues of inquiry are suggested.

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