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Kuzmina T.I., Dukhanina O.S. (2020). The content of self-image in subjects with distorted personal development (based on autism spectrum disorder cases). National Psychological Journal, [Natsional’nyy psikhologicheskiy zhurnal], (13)4, 98-112. doi: 10.11621/npj.2020.0407


BackgroundDistorted development as a variety of psychological dysontogenesis (autism spectrum disorder, among others) can combine elements of general underdevelopment, delayed, damaged and accelerated development of single psychic functions, which brings in considerable difficulties in organizing the study of cognitive and personal features in such children and imposes a number of restrictions on the researcher. Thus the specific kind of personal sphere organization in children with the distorted type of psychological dysontogenesis with its multiple manifestations still remains a subject not yet studied in depth.

Objective. Characterizing the specific features of self-image content in primary school aged children who have autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and preserved intelligence in comparison with their coevals who develop normally. Hypotheses put forward: 

  1. Self-consciousness in children with ASD who have preserved intelligence reveals specific features when confronted with the self-consciousness of their peers who develop normally;
  2. Qualitative specificity of self-image content in children with ASD is influenced both by the particularity of mental structure and by whether or not the manifestations of internal representations are intact.

Design. The study, which is of the comparative-descriptive nature, was focused on the state of self-image components in children with autism spectrum disorder without intellectual disabilities, on the one hand, and their normally developing peers, on the other hand. The experimental group included 14 boys aged 8 to 11 who have ASD without intellectual disabilities. The control group included 14 boys aged 8 to 11. The methods applied were: conversation, observation, “Sally and Anne” false belief test (Simon Baron-Cohen, Alan M. Leslie, and Uta Frith), “Age-gender identification” method developed by N.L. Belopolskaya and modified by T.I. Kuzmina, “Drawing a human” (with subsequent interpretation according to E.V. Svistunova’s table), “Who am I?” method by Manford H. Kuhn and Thomas S. McPartland in T.V. Rumyantseva’s modified version, “Complete the sentence” method by T.I. Kuzmina (modified version of Sachs–Levi’s “Unfinished sentences” method).

Results. Statistically relevantdifference between the two groups, the experimental and the control one, was found in the state of the following identity components: perspective I, physical I. The relevance of the difference in the communicative I is not certain. Children with autismspectrumdisordershow a variety of manifestations of distorted self-concept formation. Those children whose mental structure has not developed correctly have difficulties in the formation of the perspective I, fragmentary or absent conceptions of themselves in future; they are unable to imagine their social and age group role in the remote future, in contrast to the children with ASD who have an intact mental structure. Children with intact manifestations of internal representations show an ambivalent self-relation: their reflexive I embraces both positive and negative esteems connected to the attempts at assessing their estrangement and differences from the others, especially if their parents are reluctant to reveal their diagnosis and give the reasons for their children’s problems. 

ConclusionsTheresults obtained within the present study allow to take a broader view of autism as a distorted variant of psychological dysontogenesis. They also show the necessity of further variative studies that could assess the specific character of such children’s personality structure with respect to gender specificity, as well as the necessity to establish the basis for differentiated organization of person-oriented interaction with the children in question within psycho-correctional, pedagogical and educative contexts.

Received: 06/05/2020
Accepted: 08/12/2020
Pages: 98-112
DOI: 10.11621/npj.2020.0407

Sections: Clinical psychology;


Keywords: autism spectrum disorder; self-relation; self-concept; I conceptions; Ego image

Available Online 30.10.2020

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For citing this article:

Kuzmina T.I., Dukhanina O.S. (2020). The content of self-image in subjects with distorted personal development (based on autism spectrum disorder cases). National Psychological Journal, [Natsional’nyy psikhologicheskiy zhurnal], (13)4, 98-112. doi: 10.11621/npj.2020.0407

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