Feelings of Psychological Safety and Autism-traits: Exploring the Moderating Role of Sensory Sensitivity in the General Population
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Background Feelings of psychological safety are recognized central to mental health. According to the Intense World theory, individuals with autism-traits might be particularly vulnerable for disruptions in feelings of safety due to sensory sensitivities, which make them vulnerable to identify situations as unsafe. As autism-traits occur on a spectrum, these difficulties are also seen in the general population. This explorative quantitative study examines the relationship between autism-traits and feelings of psychological safety with sensory sensitivity as moderator in the general population. Methods Cross-sectional questionnaire data was collected from a sample of 160 individuals (Mage = 25.5, SD = 8.9, 76% female). Participants completed questionnaires assessing autism-traits (M-ASD), sensory sensitivity (GSQ), and feelings of psychological safety (NPSS). Results The results indicated that individuals with high autism-traits experienced significant lower feelings of psychological safety (MNPSS = 105.39, SD = 16.80) in comparison to individuals with low autism-traits (MNPSS = 120.26, SD = 11.30). Sensory sensitivity as moderator was found to moderate this relationship, particularly in individuals with high autism-traits. Conclusion These findings suggest that individuals with heightened autism-traits may experience lower feelings of psychological safety in general, while sensory sensitivities increased this relationship. These findings shed light on the underlying processes in their interactions with the environment. Further longitudinal research is recommended to unravel the complex interplay between autism-traits and sensory sensitivity as potential core symptom, and their collective influence on lower feelings of safety. This can contribute to the development of targeted interventions and improve the quality of life for individuals with autism-traits, both clinical and non-clinical.