Autism spectrum quotient, coping with stress and quality of life in a non-clinical sample – an exploratory report
Pisula et al. Health and Quality of Life Outcomes
Autism spectrum quotient, coping with stress and quality of life in a non-clinical sample - an exploratory report
Ewa Pisula 0
Dorota Danielewicz 2
Rafał Kawa 0
Wojciech Pisula 1
0 Faculty of Psychology, University of Warsaw , Warsaw , Poland
1 Institute of Psychology, Polish Academy of Science , Warsaw , Poland
2 Institute of Applied Psychology, The Maria Grzegorzewska College for Special Education , Warsaw , Poland
Background: It has been shown that autistic traits may be observed both in individuals with autism spectrum disorders and to a lesser extent in the general population. Since these traits are closely associated with limitations in social functioning, they make development of interpersonal relations difficult, and therefore may have a negative impact on an individual's quality of life (QoL). The purpose of this study was to explore these links, including the mediating effects of coping styles. Methods: A sample of 154 adults aged 19-38 years completed three questionnaires: Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ), Coping Inventory for Stressful Situations and World Health Organization Quality of Life-BREF. Pearson's r correlation coefficients were analysed, followed by path analysis. Results: All domains of QoL (Physical health, Psychological, Relationships and Environmental) were negatively correlated with AQ. The correlations were low or moderate (from −0.36 to −. 42). AQ was also correlated with two coping styles: positively with Emotion-oriented coping and negatively with Social diversion. Path analysis models showed the mediating effect of coping styles with respect to the relationships between autistic traits and QoL domains. Autistic traits and coping styles explained the greatest level of variance for the Psychological domain (41 %). Conclusions: The results confirmed the relationship between autistic traits and QoL, mediated by two coping styles. Due to the small sample and narrow age range of participants, our findings should be treated as a preliminary report.
Autistic traits; AQ; Quality of life; Coping styles; Emotion-oriented coping; Social diversion
Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are life-long
developmental disorders characterized by social and
communication impairments and restricted patterns of behaviour
and interests [1, 2]. Due to their specific characteristics,
especially their highly negative impact on the ability to
establish social relations, ASD often lead to poor social
adjustment and poor long-term outcomes with respect
to independent living [3, 4]. This is true even in
highfunctioning individuals with ASD, i.e. those without
intellectual disabilities [5, 6].
Autistic characteristics affect the functioning of the
individual in a way that may adversely influence subjective
quality of life (QoL). The World Health Organization
(WHO) defines subjective QoL as an individual’s
perception of their position in life in the context of the culture
and value systems in which they live and in relation to
their goals, expectations, standards and concerns .
Subjective QoL is a multifaceted concept including,
among other things, subjective perception of physical
health and psychological state, social relationships and
salient features of the environment. Thus defined, subjective
QoL has been demonstrated to be lower in individuals
with ASD than in the general population . It has been
also found that individuals with Asperger syndrome (one
of the disorders grouped within ASD) were more likely to
report depression, suicidal ideation, suicide plans and
attempts compared not only to the general population,
but also those with medical or psychic illnesses .
Many researchers share the view that certain behavioural
and cognitive characteristics typically seen in autism,
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referred to as autistic traits or Broader Autism Phenotype
[10, 11], are present not only in individuals with ASD and
their first-degree relatives, but are also distributed
throughout the general population [12–15]. The dimensional
nature of ASD is still up for debate, and it is unclear whether
autistic traits in individuals with ASD and those without
such a diagnosis are the same phenomenon [16, 17].
Nevertheless, extensive research is being conducted in
nonclinical groups to explore links between autistic traits and
other aspects of human psychological functioning. These
studies often utilize the Autism Spectrum Quotient
questionnaire (AQ) developed by S. Baron-Cohen et al. .
Links between autistic traits and subjective QoL have
not been fully elaborated yet, despite the arguments
existing for undertaking such research. Autistic traits, by
definition, may inhibit the development of satisfying
social relationships. Specifically, it has been demonstrated
that individuals with greater expression of autistic traits
reported stronger feelings of loneliness [18, 19],
depression and anxiety, as well as higher rates of being
bullied . In a study of newlywed couples, Pollmann,
Finkenauer and Begeer  found that higher levels of
autistic traits in males were associated with lower
relationship satisfaction. Considering the importance of
interpersonal relations for individual wellbeing , the
relationships between autistic traits and QoL certainly
deserve attention from researchers.
It has also been established that the relationships
between personal characteristics and QoL are mediated by
coping with stress [23–25]. Lazarus and Folkman 
defined coping with stress as cognitive and behavioural
efforts undertaken to meet specific external and internal
demands that individuals perceive as stretching or
exceeding their resources. Depending on an individual’s
personality characteristics, certain coping styles may
affect subjective QoL differently . To our knowledge,
there is currently no information about links between
autistic traits and coping with stress in non-clinical
samples. These traits may increase the risk of experiencing
stress and impair the use of effective coping methods,
since difficulties in social relations resulting from autistic
traits may hinder the use of coping styles that involve
seeking support from others. Furthermore, neuroticism,
which is positively correlated with autistic traits [27, 28],
is known to be strongly associated both with perceived
stress  and coping with stress . To date, however,
the relationships between autistic traits, coping styles
and QoL have not been specifically targeted in research.
The aim of the present study is to identify and describe
these relationships in a non-clinical sample of young
adults. The concepts of autistic traits, as well as a
Broader Autism Phenotype (BAP) or AQ, may imply
slightly distinct theoretical notions, and as stand-alone
constructs are deserving of detailed empirical analysis.
However, due to preliminary nature of this study, we
have decided to limit our analysis involving the
measurement of autistic characteristics to the Autism Spectrum
Quotient concept, reflected by the total score from the
AQ questionnaire . We expect to find negative
correlations between AQ and QoL, and to confirm the
mediating role of stress-coping styles in the relationships
between these variables. Since our limited knowledge
makes it impossible to specify the nature of these
relationships more precisely, especially with respect to
coping styles, this is an exploratory study in its nature.
The participants group consisted of 153 individuals (93
females, 60 males) aged 19–38 years (M = 22.11 years,
SD = 2.10 years). They were university students of
humanities, social sciences, economics and science.
Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ)
AQ is a self-report survey to assess autistic traits in a
general population. It consists of 50 statements to which
participants respond on a 4-point Likert scale (1-
definitely agree, 2- slightly agree, 3- slightly disagree, 4 -
definitely disagree). One point is awarded for each diagnostic
answer, which is “agree” in one half of the statements and
“disagree” in the other half (irrespective of whether
“slightly” or “definitely”), therefore reducing the four point
scale to dichotomous one, as proposed by Baron-Cohen et
al. . The total score ranges from 0 to 50 points, with
higher scores representing greater severity of autistic
traits. It should be noted that using the conventional 0–1
scoring procedure and reducing the scale from a
fourpoint to a two-point range may be questionable. We
decided to do so out of a desire to make our data compatible
with the vast majority number of previous studies.
AQ allows for the calculation of the total score and five
subscale scores: Social skill, Communication, Attention
switching, Imagination and Attention to detail. Some
studies have shown that while reliability for the total score
is acceptable, it is significantly lower for some of the
subscales [13, 28, 31–33]. Furthermore, the hypothesized
fivefactor structure of AQ has yet to be confirmed empirically
[13, 34–36]. As described earlier  the Polish version of
the Autism-Spectrum Quotient was translated from
English into Polish with the consent of Prof. Simon
Baron-Cohen by Ewa Pisula, Ph.D., Agnieszka Rynkiewicz,
MAT, M.D. and Izabela Łucka, M.D., Ph.D. Next, a
different translator back-translated the Polish version AQ into
English. The original English and back- translated versions
were compared by a native English speaker. The text was
edited according to comments received from a native
English speaker, following which the reformulated items
were translated into English by a translator unfamiliar
with the content of the comments and original
questionnaire then compared with the original by a native English
speaker; the final Polish version of the AQ was then
established (available at http:/www.psychologia.pl/rehabilitacja/,
as well as from the first author upon request). The Polish
version of AQ employs the same scoring system as the
original. The psychometric properties of this instrument
were analysed . Reliability (AQ total score) measured
using Cronbach’s alpha coefficient in a Polish sample
(2819 individuals) has been found satisfactory, r = 0.71
, although—as in studies conducted in other countries
cited above—the internal consistency coefficients for
subscales (excepting social skill) were low. This is why only
the total AQ score is analysed in the present study. It
should be mentioned that the absence of the subscales in
our analyses creates obvious limitations in interpretation
of the results. However, given the exploratory nature of
our study, sample size and unsatisfactory psychometric
properties of the subscales , we chose not to conduct a
detailed analysis involving AQ subscales.
Coping Inventory for Stressful Situations (CISS)
CISS measures coping styles . It consists of 48 items
comprising three scales: (1) Task-oriented
coping—engaging in efforts aimed at solving a problem through
cognitive restructuring or attempts to alter the situation and
solve the problem; (2) Emotion-oriented
coping—responding to stress with self-oriented emotional
reactions, focusing activity on the reduction of emotional
tension caused by the stressor; (3) Avoidance-oriented
coping—tendency to avoid a stressful situation in one of
two ways: avoidance by social diversion and avoidance
Items are answered on a 1 (not at all) to 5 (very much)
Likert scale. The Polish version of CISS was used, which
features high reliability ranging from 0.78 to 0.9 for
individual subscales .
World Health Organization Quality of Life—BREF
The subjective QoL measure was the WHOQOL-BREF,
which is derived from the 100-item WHOQOL . The
instrument comprises 26 items, including two general
questions regarding (1) subjective overall perception of
QoL and (2) individual, overall perception of the
subject’s health, as well as 24 belonging to four domains:
physical health (7 items), psychological state (6 items),
social relationships (3 items) and environment (8 items).
Participants respond to each item on a 5-point scale
(1 = very poor/very dissatisfied/not at all; 2 =
poor/dissatisfied/a little; 3 = neither poor nor good/a moderate
amount; 4 = good/satisfied/very much; 5 = very good/
very satisfied/extremely). The study used the Polish
version of WHOQOL-BREF prepared by Jaracz .
Scores in each of the four domains were analysed
(the general questions were ignored). Scores for individual
domains were calculated by computing the arithmetic
mean for the items belonging to a given domain and
multiplying the result by four (to obtain scores
comparable with the full version of WHOQOL). The Polish
version of WHOQOL-BREF measured by Cronbach’s alpha is
satisfactory. The values for individual domains are 0.81 for
Physical, 0.78 for Psychological, 0.69 for Relationships and
0.77 for Environmental .
In the demographics survey the participants were asked to
state their age, gender and field of study. They were also
asked if they had ever been diagnosed with ASD. In
addition, they were asked whether they had close relatives
diagnosed with childhood autism, Asperger syndrome or
pervasive developmental disorders not otherwise specified.
Data collection and ethics
The study was approved by the Ethics Committee of the
Faculty of Psychology at the University of Warsaw. The
study was administered in groups; all participants were
informed about the purpose of the study, voluntary
participation and anonymity. The order of scales in the
sets distributed to students was randomized. Incomplete
questionnaires (7 out of 160) were rejected before
analysis. The number of participants given above (N = 153)
includes only the sets qualified for analysis. None of the
participants declared that they had ever been diagnosed
with ASD. Three participants declared that members of
their extended family (cousins) had been diagnosed with
Statistical calculations were performed using SPSS/
AMOS v. 21. Assessment of links between AQ, coping
styles and QoL domains employed Pearson’s product
moment correlation coefficients, followed by path
analysis. The mediating effects of coping styles on the
relationship between AQ and QoL were tested using path
analysis models. The maximum likelihood estimation
method was used. The adjusted level of significance, in
general α/k for k tests, was used to conduct each of the
individual k tests and was applied to tested models when
there was at least two predictors of the same variable.
Table 1 Descriptive statistics of AQ, QoL and coping styles. Means and Standard Deviations are shown both across gender groups
and the total sample
Avoidance by distraction
As the initial step for further analysis, Pearson’s product
moment correlation coefficients were calculated. The
results are shown in Table 2.
All measured aspects of QoL were negatively
correlated with total AQ score. The correlations were low or
moderate (from −0.36 to −0.42). In addition, the AQ
score correlated with two coping styles: positively with
Emotion-oriented coping and negatively with Social
Possible mediators included in the path analysis models
were Emotion-oriented coping and Social diversion, i.e.
those coping styles for which statistically significant
relationships with AQ were found. Each QoL domain was
1. Physical domain
2. Psychological domain
3. Relationships domain
4. Environmental domain
5. Task-oriented coping
6. Emotion-oriented coping
7. Avoidance-oriented coping
8. Social diversion
analysed in a separate model. For the sake of
nonnormality of the Relationships domain distribution
(Kolmogorov-Smirnow Z = 2.07, p < 0.001), this variable
was log-transformed. The transformation was successful
and facilitated proceeding with further analysis. The
results of the path analysis models for each QoL domain are
presented in Fig. 1.
As Fig. 1 shows, Emotion-oriented coping was a full
mediator of the relationship between AQ and each of
the QoL domains. AQ predicted Emotion-oriented
coping, which in turn was negatively correlated with QoL.
In the model for the Physical health domain of QoL
(see Fig. 1a), AQ explained 19 % of variance in
Emotionoriented coping, while Emotion-oriented coping in turn
explained 35 % of Physical health domain variance.
Bonferroni correction was applied to test the significance
of the relationships between Emotion-oriented coping,
Social diversion and QoL domains. There was no
statistically significant association between Social diversion
and Physical health, meaning that Social diversion was
not a mediator of the relationship between AQ and the
Physical health domain. One path with no significant
relationship was dropped and it is presented in Fig. 1a for
illustrative purposes only. Based on modification indices
values and in order to achieve a better fit of the model,
the path representing Social diversion as an effect of
Emotion-oriented coping was added. Controlling for AQ
revealed the association between Emotion-oriented coping
and Social diversion. AQ was negatively related to Social
diversion, while Emotion-oriented coping was positively
correlated with Social diversion. Both predictors together
explained 20 % of the variance in Social diversion.
Fig. 1 Path analysis models for QoL domains: (a) – Physical health domain; (b) – Psychological domain; (c) – Relationships domain, and
(d) – Environmental domain
There was no statistically significant difference
between the tested model and data, χ2 (2) = 2.03, p > 0.05.
The fit indexes had appropriate values, CFI = 0.99,
RMSEA = 0.01. The Sobel test has shown that the effect
of Emotion-oriented coping as a mediator of the
relationship between AQ and Physical health domain was
statistically significant, Z = − 4.67, p < 0.001.
Emotionoriented coping mediated 70.2 % of the total effect of
AQ on the Physical health domain.
In the model presented in Fig. 1b, Social diversion was
positively correlated with the Psychological domain of
QoL. Emotion-oriented coping and Social diversion were
two mediators of the relationship between AQ and QoL.
AQ was positively correlated with Emotion-oriented
coping and negatively related to Social diversion. The
Psychological domain was negatively correlated with
Emotion-oriented coping and positively related to Social
diversion. Based on the modification indices values, in
order to achieve a better fit of the model the path
representing Social diversion as an effect of Emotion-oriented
coping was added, the same as in the model for the
Physical health domain. Emotion-oriented coping was
positively related to Social diversion, which, when taken
together with AQ, explained 20 % of Social diversion
variance. The two mediators of Emotion-oriented coping
and Social diversion explained 41 % of Psychological
domain variance. There was no statistically significant
difference between the tested model and the data,
χ2(1) = 2.89, p > 0.05. The fit indexes had appropriate
values for this model as well, CFI = 0.99, RMSEA =
0.11. The Sobel test has indicated that the effect of
Emotion-oriented coping as a mediator of relationship
between AQ and Psychological domain was
statistically significant, Z = − 4.49, p < 0.001. The value of
the Sobel test for Social diversion tested as mediator
was not statistically significant, Z = − 1.30, p > 0.05.
Emotion-oriented coping mediated 46.6 % of the total
effect of AQ on the Psychological domain.
The results for the Relationships domain are presented
in Fig. 1c. The model was very similar to that obtained for
the Psychological domain, but both Emotion-oriented
coping and Social diversion explained only 17 % of
the Relationships domain. There was no statistically
significant difference between the tested model and
the data, χ2 (1) = 2.65, p > 0.05, and the fit indexes
had appropriate values, CFI = 0.98, RMSEA = 0.01.
The Sobel test has shown that the effect of
Emotionoriented coping as a mediator of relationship between
AQ and the Relationships domain was statistically
significant, Z = − 2.31, p < 0.01. The value of the Sobel
test for Social diversion tested as mediator was not
statistically significant, Z = −1.59, p > 0.05.
Emotionoriented coping mediated 26.7 % of the total effect of
AQ on the Relationships domain.
The model for the Environmental domain is shown in
Fig. 1d. This model was very similar to those obtained
for the Psychological and Relationships domains. The
relationship between Social diversion and the
Environmental domain was weaker than for the Psychological and
Relationships domains, however, both Emotion-oriented
coping and Social diversion explained 33 % of the
Environmental domain. There was no statistically significant
difference between the tested model and the data, χ2
(1) = 3.48, p > 0.05, while the fit indexes had values of
CFI = 0.98, RMSEA = 0.13. The increased RMSEA value is
an effect of the weaker correlation between Social
diversion and the Environmental domain. The Sobel test has
shown that the effect of Emotion-oriented coping as a
mediator of the relationship between AQ and
Environmental domain was statistically significant, Z = −
4.24, p < 0.001. The value of Sobel test for Social
diversion tested as mediator was not statistically
significant, Z = − 0.09, p > 0,05. Emotion-oriented coping
mediated 48.92 % of the total effect of AQ on the
Equivalence of the causal structures between the groups
of men and women was also tested. The χ2 differences
were not statistically significant: for Physical health Δχ2
(4) = 0.01, p > 0.05, for the Psychological domain Δχ2 (5) =
0.01, p > 0.05, for Relationships Δχ2 (5) = 0.01, p > 0.05 and
for the Environmental domain Δχ2 (5) = 0.01, p > 0.05, so
it can be assumed that the regression paths operate
equivalently across the two groups in each model.
As expected, our study identified relationships between
AQ and QoL. AQ was correlated with all QoL domains.
While these correlations were low to moderate, any
interpretations should take into account the small sample
size. The anticipated direction of the relationship was
confirmed: higher levels of AQ correlated with lower
QoL. This is consistent with the results of studies on
subjective QoL in individuals with ASD and their
parents [8, 40]. Mugno et al.  showed that the parents
of children with ASD tended to report lower QoL than
the parents of children with cerebral palsy and
intellectual disabilities. The authors of the paper cited above
claim that their results may be interpreted not only in
terms of specific difficulties experienced by parents raising
children with ASD, but also as an effect of the genetic
predispositions to develop both autistic traits and depression,
and the impact of these factors on the reported QoL. It is
possible that the relationship between autistic traits and
susceptibility to depression, which other authors have also
hinted at [41–43], has affected the results of the present
study as well. This interpretation is supported by some
empirical data  and opens up the interesting prospect
of exploring neurobiological mechanisms common to
autistic traits and depression, although this issue lies outside
the scope of this paper. Since this controversy cannot be
resolved on the basis of the data presented in the present
study, we must leave this question open for future
research. The negative correlation between AQ and QoL
can result from the impairment of social relations caused
by autistic traits. Autistic traits are associated with lower
satisfaction with social relationships and with a sense of
loneliness [18, 21]. There is evidence that individuals with
higher levels of autistic traits are at a higher risk of
rejection and aggression from others , which in turn can
affect their subjective evaluation of QoL.
Correlation analysis revealed the presence of
associations between AQ and two coping styles:
Emotionoriented coping and Social diversion. Autistic traits seem
to be positively associated with a tendency to use coping
styles focused on emotions and negatively with a
tendency to cope by using Social diversion. In the case of
the correlation between AQ and Emotion-oriented
coping, we can hypothesize that autistic traits may lead to
the use of less adaptive ways of coping, thereby making
access to some effective stress-coping styles more
difficult (e.g. enlisting the help of others). It has been
established that emotional-oriented coping is less adaptive
and associated with poor QoL . It is also noteworthy
that research on individuals with ASD and members of
their families, i.e. along with the dimensional approach
to ASD, has demonstrated that intense stress triggers
stereotyped behaviour, rituals, self-stimulation and
aggressive behaviour, as well as crying and anger, which is
thought to reduce emotional arousal . The positive
correlation between AQ and emotion-focused coping
may indicate that individuals with higher levels of AQ
use emotion concentrated coping to reduce emotional
arousal. It may be noted that some studies have shown a
relationship between autism spectrum traits and
alexithymia [47, 48]. Alexithymia, defined as difficulty in
identifying and describing one’s emotional experience
, is associated with poor ability to regulate emotional
arousal efficiently, and therefore low adaptive coping
. Positive correlations between alexithymia and
repressive coping style, denial and disengagement have been
already identified (eg. [51, 52]). Given the above, the
positive correlation between AQ and emotion-oriented coping
seems to be consistent with the outcomes of previously
The link between AQ and Social diversion seems rather
straightforward. This subtype of Avoidant coping implies
engaging in social contact in order to avoid stressors. In
people who tend to be significantly less involved in social
relationships, this type of coping with stress is by
definition less likely. Less frequent Social diversion coping was
also observed in parents of children with ASD . It
remains unclear whether this is due to time constraints that
prevent these parents from spending time in the company
of others, or whether it is somehow related to the level of
autistic traits in parents. We could expect people with
higher levels of autistic traits to make less frequent use of
coping styles that require involvement in social contacts,
such as seeking social support. This issue, however, is
beyond the scope of the present paper. It should be
emphasized, moreover, that we found no correlations
between AQ and other measured coping styles,
including Task-oriented coping or the other subtype of
the Avoidant style—Distraction.
An interesting aspect of the present study is the
presence of the mediatory effect of Emotion-oriented coping
and Social diversion on the relationship between autistic
traits and QoL. The direction of the relationship with
QoL is not surprising in the case of Emotion-oriented
coping. Consistently with the findings of previous
studies that demonstrated a negative correlation of this
coping style with QoL [54, 55], it is negative for all QoL
domains. The findings regarding Social diversion are less
straightforward. The style turned out to be a predictor
for all QoL domains except Physical health. In each of
the remaining domains, the correlation between Social
diversion and QoL was positive, i.e. the higher
participants scored for that style, the higher QoL they
reported. The developed models indicate that autistic
traits lower the probability of using Social diversion as a
coping style, and the style mediates the relationship
between autistic traits and QoL. The avoidant style
involving Social diversion proved to be beneficial in the
context of QoL (although the correlation was weak).
Avoidant coping is widely regarded as disadvantageous
in terms of QoL [56–58]. Our findings suggest that it
may be beneficial for the three measured areas of QoL.
This could mean that for individuals with higher levels
of autistic traits, coping by avoiding stressors through
intensified socializing enhances their subjective QoL. It
is noteworthy that a similar relationship between
Avoidant coping and QoL has been found by other
researchers, for example in patients after coronary
The percentage of variance explained by the analysed
models differed across QoL domains. It was the highest
(41 %) in the case of the Psychological domain. This
domain includes, among others, acceptance of one’s bodily
appearance, presence of negative feelings, overall
satisfaction with oneself and self-esteem. The fact that the
level of autistic traits reported by participants combined
with coping styles explains a relatively high proportion
of variance of QoL may reflect the significance of
autistic traits in the context of various aspects of self-esteem.
This issue, however, requires further research. The
magnitude of the total effect of AQ on the QoL domains
mediated by Emotion-oriented coping (from 26.7 % in
Relationships to 70.2 % in Physical health) proved the
validity of the coping styles input within the models of
the AQ and QoL relations.
A relatively high proportion of QoL variance was
explained by autistic traits and coping styles also with
respect to the Physical health and Environmental
domains (35 and 33 %, respectively). Physical health
includes, among others, necessary medical treatment,
assessment of one’s energy, ability to get around, pain
and discomfort, assessment of sleep and ability to work.
These are the key elements of the overall assessment of
one’s health and physical condition. The scope of the
Environmental domain is very broad: it includes, among
other elements, financial resources, sense of freedom,
physical and psychological safety, health and healthcare,
living conditions, availability of new information and
skills, opportunities for leisure and physical
environment. The smallest proportion of QoL variance (17 %)
was explained by AQ and coping styles in the case of
the Relationships domain. This domain appears to be
the one most directly linked with autistic traits, since it
encompasses satisfaction with personal relationships,
support from friends and sex life. Since in
WHOQOLBREF it consists of only three items, it provides very
little information about subjects’ perceptions of their
relationships with others. The limited scope of social
relationships in the questionnaire may have affected the
results in terms of variance in this QoL domain
explained by autistic traits.
Conclusions and limitations
Our findings have revealed links between autistic traits,
coping styles and QoL, but they have also shown that
variability of autistic traits in a general population
sample is not a decisive factor when it comes to QoL. It is
obvious that the latter is affected to a significant extent
by other variables not measured in the present study.
Any interpretation of the findings must take into account
the limitations of the study, such as the size and
characteristics of the sample: all participants were students of
universities in large cities aged from 19 to 38 years. The study
used exclusively self-report measures, which means that
the participants themselves declared how many autistic
traits they had, which coping styles they used and what
their QoL was like. Any interpretation must also be
limited to a non-clinical population only, since the
relationship between autistic traits in the general population and
in people with ASD has not yet been established, and our
study did not involve participants with ASD.
It should also be noted that this study did not involve
measurement of exposure to stress. This should be taken
into account in future research, since autistic traits may
affect perceived stress levels. Moreover, the possible role
of neuroticism in shaping the links among AQ, coping
with stress and QoL is worthy of analysis. Since
neuroticism is associated with autistic traits [27, 28], as well as
with perceived stress  and coping with stress ,
including all these variables into a tested model seems to
be a promising idea.
Due to these limitations the present study should be
treated as a preliminary report. Nevertheless, our findings
can provide cues for further investigation of the factors
that determine the relationships between autistic traits
and perceived QoL. This may be especially important due
to the rising incidence of ASD , which in turn may
lead to new circumstances affecting the QoL of individuals
who express those traits and their social partners.
EP designed the study and provided the theoretical hypotheses. DD and RK
organized the process of data collection. WP analyzed the collected data. All
authors contributed to the discussion section. All authors read and approved
the final manuscript.
The authors thank Marta Kuligowska and Anna Kościan for their assistance in
data collection and Katarzyna Trędota for her help in database preparation.
The study was supported by a grant from the Polish National Science Centre
(#UMO-2011/03/B/HS6/03326) and by the University of Warsaw.
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