Understanding romantically intimate relational escalation and de-escalation among high functioning individuals possessing an autism spectrum disorder
Romantic relationships are an important aspect of anyone's life. For individuals with an autism spectrum disorder, this is true as well. However, these people may experience relational dynamics and trajectories that are in some aspects either similar to or markedly different from those who are not on the spectrum. There are very few studies analyzing and understanding how adults with an ASD navigate romantic relationships. This particular study examined how turning points pertaining to relational escalation or de-escalation were recognized and understood by eight individuals (four men and four women) possessing an ASD. The Retrospective Interview Technique (RIT) was implemented in order to accrue data from participants. Each participant completed a RIT graph mapping out a romantic relationship of their choice by understanding when a turning point was identified and placing a mark next to the corresponding level of relational closeness or attachment. Once all turning points were mapped out, they were connected with lines so that a visual representation of the entire relationship may be viewed. Participants were then queried about how they knew that particular event (or mark) to be a turning point, how it impacted the relationship, and how they were, personally, influenced by it (how they responded to the event). Interviews were transcribed and explored through a grounded theory approach. Specifically, Braun and Clarke's thematic analysis method was applied to articulate interview data. The research revealed four main themes (Relational Genesis, Relational Escalation, Relational De-escalation and Conflict Management) as well as seventeen sub themes. Limitations for this study, information relating to discourses surrounding autism spectrum disorders and romantically intimate relationships, as well as, areas for future study are also discussed.