Leeds Beckett University
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Autism and Understanding Social Romantic Boundaries- Is it different for women?

posted on 2023-01-04, 14:06 authored by Trudi LongbottomTrudi Longbottom

In 2007 Mark Stokes et al., conducted research into the understanding of stalking and social and romantic functioning, of 25 autism spectrum disorder (ASD) adolescents and adults, in comparison to 38 typically developing (TD) adolescents and adults. Overall findings were that those with ASD did differ from their TD counterparts in both the sources of their learning, and their levels, of social and romantic functioning. ASD individuals were more likely to display inappropriate and intrusive behaviour with a propensity to exhibit stalking behaviours, towards all targets of interest. Subsequent research had similar results, although many participants and case study subjects were ASD males. 

This thesis examines the understanding ASD females have of social and romantic boundaries in comparison to ASD males by replicating the 2007 Stokes et al., study. To my knowledge this is the first study to compare levels of understanding in this area by gender, with a focus on female gender, using only ASD diagnosed participants.

Findings of this study had similarities to the original. For example, lack of understanding by ASD participants in navigating the boundaries and social nuances wrapped up with dating and forming relationships. What was also discovered within analysis was that in many areas, such as length of pursuit of a romantic interest, ASD females were found to give higher response numbers than their ASD male counterparts. ASD females would pursue their target for longer than ASD males. In some cases, even with a negative response from that target of interest.

Previous research has highlighted the numbers of autistic men who have found themselves the subject of warnings from police to refrain from certain inappropriate behaviours, yet many have expressed not understanding why. The implications of findings within this study suggest that there may be numbers of autistic women suffering the same confusion regarding their behaviours who simply have not yet been identified. Further research is needed in this area to discover a truer picture of the numbers of ASD individuals, particularly female, impacted, and importantly to discover what those individuals feel would help them avoid future warnings or criminal justice involvement.


Qualification name

  • MRes


Kawalek, Anna ; McGrath, James

Awarding Institution

Leeds Beckett University

Completion Date


Qualification level

  • Masters


  • eng


Leeds Beckett University

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