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

Rhodes, Sinead M., Eaton, Christopher B. ORCID:, Oldridge, Jessica, Rodgers, Jacqui, Chan, Stella, Skouta, Ereni, McKechanie, Andrew G., Mackie, Leila and Stewart, Tracy 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. 10.1016/j.ridd.2023.104516

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Background 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. Methods 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. Results 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. Conclusions 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
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Medicine
MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics (CNGG)
Publisher: Elsevier
ISSN: 0891-4222
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 22 June 2023
Date of Acceptance: 19 April 2023
Last Modified: 20 Jul 2023 16:34

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