The impact of socio-cultural values on autistic women: An interpretative phenomenological analysis

Stella Mo*, Nina Viljoen, Shivani Sharma

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It is well recognised that culture plays an important role in how people experience the world. However, there is limited knowledge on the impact of socio-cultural norms and values on the lives of autistic women. This qualitative study used individual semi-structured interviews to explore how eight cis-gendered autistic women, without co-occurring intellectual disabilities, describe dominant socio-cultural beliefs, values and norms and their influence on their own sense of self. Findings elucidated three interdependent themes related to the ‘pervasive influence of cultural values’, ‘individualisation as an autistic woman’ and ‘social connectivity’. Autistic women described how they experienced their environments and made choices about their place within the dominant culture and the impact of these decisions on their identities and experience. The findings of this study have implications for the continued need to shift societal and clinical attitudes towards understanding and appreciating diversity among autistic women. Lay abstract: Autistic women with average or above intellectual abilities are often overlooked clinically or identified at older ages compared to autistic males. Their experiences can provide insight into the socio-cultural factors that impact on how they develop and are seen by others. This study asked autistic women to describe the culture around them and explore how this has influenced their lived experiences. Individual semi-structured interviews were conducted with eight autistic women without a co-occurring diagnosis of intellectual disabilities. These were used for interpretative phenomenological analysis. Overall, we found three closely connected themes on the pervasive influence of cultural values on autistic women, how autistic women define themselves and the importance of connecting with society. These findings suggest that dominant cultural beliefs, values and norms effect how autistic women are recognised by others and develop their sense of self. Broadening how people think about autistic women in society and clinically may benefit how we identify and support autistic women.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)951-962
Number of pages12
Issue number4
Early online date13 Aug 2021
Publication statusPublished - May 2022


  • autism
  • culture
  • identity
  • interpretative phenomenological analysis
  • women


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