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Lived experiences of depression in autistic children and adolescents: a qualitative study on child and parent perspectives

Rhodes, S. M., Eaton, C. B., Oldridge, J., Rodgers, J., Chan, S. ORCID:, Skouta, E., McKechanie, A. G., Mackie, L. and Stewart, T. M. (2023) Lived experiences of depression in autistic children and adolescents: a qualitative study on child and parent perspectives. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 138. 104516. ISSN 1873-3379

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1016/j.ridd.2023.104516


Depression is highly prevalent in autistic children and adolescents. Despite this, little is known about the nature of the autistic child's subjective experience of depression and the impact of depression on their lives. We therefore conducted a qualitative study using thematic analysis with 7 autistic children and adolescents and their parents to identify common themes and individual differences. All children had previously experienced at least one depressive episode. Six main themes were identified: (1) Autism related experiences; (2) Difficulties with peer relationships; (3) Co-occurring relationships between anxiety and depression; (4) Impactful pessimism and anhedonia; (5) Impactful difficulties with focus and concentration and (6) Feelings of irritability, including aggressive behaviours. Parent's accounts of their children's experience of depression mirrored the child's perspective. Novel findings included reports of depression related restriction of diet variety and masking of mental health difficulties. Children and parents linked being autistic and developing depression, referring to the difficulties of being autistic in a complex, neurotypical world. These results highlight key challenges that autistic children and their families experience, calling for increased awareness of the impact of depression on autistic young people.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Interdisciplinary centres and themes > Charlie Waller Institute
ID Code:111975
Uncontrolled Keywords:Autism, Depression, Parents, Children, Adolescents


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