Date Approved


Embargo Period


Document Type


Degree Name

M.A. Clinical Psychology




College of Science & Mathematics


Katherine Gotham, Ph.D.

Committee Member 1

Thomas Dinzeo, Ph.D.

Committee Member 2

Chelsie Young, Ph.D.


autism, college, depression, longitudinal, negative repetitive thinking


Autistic people; College students--Mental Health; Depression, Mental


Clinical Psychology


The prevention and treatment of mental health concerns, including depression, are significant priorities for autistic adults. While several theories have been proposed to explain the high prevalence of depression in autistic populations, little longitudinal research has been done on potential causal mechanisms. Additional research is needed to explore how proposed contributors to depression from general population research -- namely, negative repetitive thinking, lack of social opportunity, and attributional style -- predict and/or moderate the development of depressive symptoms in autistic individuals. The current study investigates these potential predictors' relationship to internalizing symptoms over the course of college students' first semester. We found that more elevated trait-like negative repetitive thinking and depressive attributional styles were predictive of sadness across the semester. Additionally, greater negative repetitive thinking and greater social dissatisfaction were synchronously related to elevated sadness. While these relationships were true across neurotypes, autistic students were more likely than their non-autistic peers to experience negative repetitive thinking, social dissatisfaction, and heightened depressive attributional style, as well as depressive symptoms, at some time points. Although these findings are preliminary, they highlight specific mechanisms that may be useful prevention and intervention targets to aid in reducing the elevated depression and anxiety rates in the autistic community.