Sex/Gender Differences in Camouflaging in Children and Adolescents with Autism

J Autism Dev Disord. 2021 Apr;51(4):1353-1364. doi: 10.1007/s10803-020-04615-z.


This study investigated sex/gender differences in camouflaging with children and adolescents (N = 84) with and without an autism diagnosis/increased levels of autistic traits using two conceptualisations/operationalisations of camouflaging. A significant group-by-gender interaction using ANCOVA, with the covariate of verbal IQ, reflected similar levels of social reciprocity in autistic and neurotypical females, whereas autistic males had lower reciprocity than neurotypical males. Autistic females also had higher reciprocity than autistic males, despite similar levels of autistic traits (behavioural camouflaging). Additionally, autistic males and females had similar theory of mind skills, despite females having increased reciprocity (compensatory camouflaging). These findings provide evidence of increased camouflaging in autistic females, which may contribute to delay in the recognition of difficulties and provision of support.

Keywords: Autism; Camouflaging; Compensation; Masking; Reciprocity; Sex/gender differences; Theory of mind.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological / physiology*
  • Adolescent
  • Autistic Disorder / diagnosis
  • Autistic Disorder / psychology*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Recognition, Psychology / physiology
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Sex Factors
  • Theory of Mind / physiology*