Perceptions of social and work functioning are related to social anxiety and executive function in autistic adults

Alix Woolard, Elizabeth Stratton, Eleni A. Demetriou, Kelsie A. Boulton, Elizabeth Pellicano, Nick Glozier, Vicki Gibbs, Nicole Rogerson, Philippa Quinn, Ian B. Hickie, Adam J. Guastella*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Autistic adults report concerns with social skills and unemployment. Despite anxiety and difficulty with executive cognitive skills being associated with autism, no studies to date have investigated relationships between anxiety or executive cognition with social and work functioning. This study aimed to investigate the associations between perceived social anxiety, perceived and objective executive function, and perceived social and work functioning in a sample of autistic people. A total of 62 participants completed self-report questionnaires of social anxiety (via the Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale), mental health (via the Depression Anxiety Stress Scale), executive cognition (via the Behaviour Rating Inventory of Executive Function) and perceived social and work functioning (the Work and Social Adjustment Scale), and a smaller subset (n = 36–40) completed performance-based executive function tasks (Trail Making Task and Rapid Visual Processing Task). Participants who reported having more social anxiety and more difficulty with executive cognition also perceived themselves as having poorer social and work functioning. Performance-based executive function was not related to social or work functioning. Our results suggest that perceived social anxiety and executive cognition are both areas that have potential to be targeted to investigate whether they improve social and vocational outcomes for autistic people.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2124-2134
Number of pages11
Issue number7
Early online date16 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2021


  • autism spectrum disorder
  • executive function
  • functional ability
  • social anxiety
  • social functioning
  • work functioning


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