Autistic Traits and Purpose in Emerging Adulthood: Associations with Pathways to Purpose and Perceived Adult Status

Kaylin Ratner, Anthony L. Burrow, Patrick L. Hill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study examined how two individual differences—autistic traits and sense of purpose—predict perceptions of purpose development and adult status. Participants (N = 805, Mage = 25.42 years) were surveyed via Qualtrics Panels. While sense of purpose positively correlated with each purpose pathway and perceived adult status, autistic traits negatively related to each outcome. We then tested the unique and interactive effects of autistic traits and sense of purpose on pathway endorsement and perceived adult status while controlling for age. Autistic traits negatively predicted proactive and reactive pathway endorsement, but did not appear to predict social learning pathway endorsement or perceived adult status. Sense of purpose continued to positively predict all outcomes and did not appear to modify the effect of autistic traits on any outcome. These findings are discussed with an eye toward future research, especially with regard to the apparent accessibility of the social learning pathway.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)420-427
Number of pages8
JournalEmerging Adulthood
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • autistic traits
  • emerging adulthood
  • perceived adulthood
  • purpose in life

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies

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