Adults With Poor Social Competence but Not Autism Engage in Camouflaging

social distance, quarantine, mental health
The purpose of this study was to further understand the factors that are related to camouflaging behaviors.

Nonautistic adults who have low social competency likely engage in camouflaging as a coping strategy. These findings were published in Autism in Adulthood.

Researchers in Canada recruited 247 students. Participants were assessed by the Wechsler Abbreviated Scales of Intelligence II (WASI-II), Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ), Multidimensional Social Competence Scale (MSCS), Camouflaging Autistic Traits Questionnaire (CAT-Q), and Behavioral Rating Inventory of Executive Function-Metacognitive Index (BRIEF-MI).

Participants had a mean age of 20.03 years (standard deviation [SD], 2.28) and 176 were women. They had a mean intelligence quotient (IQ) of 100.62 (SD, 8.459), an autism quotient of 17.02 (SD, 6.35), MSCS of 297.46 (SD, 26.31), CAT-Q of 91.21 (SD, 23.34), and BRIEF-MI of 54.60 (SD, 9.86).

CAT-Q scores could be predicted by IQ, gender, and executive functioning (F[3,243], 10.429; P <.001). Adding self-reported social competence to the model increased prediction power and was associated with increased camouflaging (R2, 0.249; F[7,236], 13.164; P <.001).

The full model that incorporated all subscales of the MSCS best predicted CAT-Q scores (R2, 0.363; F[10,236], 13.439; P <.001).

To relate CAT-Q scores with autism characteristics, the investigators observed that attention switching, tolerance to change, and communication skills all significantly contributed (P <.04) to CAT-Q prediction with IQ, gender, and executive functioning (R2, 0.336; F[8,238], 15.088; P <.001).

When MSCS scores were added to the above model, R2 increased by 0.024 (F[5,241], 23.736; P <.001).

This study was limited by its sample, which was largely homogeneous with regard to age and participants all being students and may not be generalizable to other populations.

These observations replicated previous findings that nonautistic adults employ camouflaging to compensate for difficulties in social situations. Poor social competence predicted these camouflaging behaviors.


Scheerer NE, Aime H, Boucher T, Iarocci G. The association between self-reported camouflaging of autistic traits and social competence in nonautistic young adults. Autism Adulthood. 2020;2(4):298-306. doi:10.1089/aut.2019.0062