Category: Autism Spectrum and Developmental Disorders
Studies have shown that parents of a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) experience high levels of parenting stress (Hayes & Watson, 2013). Understanding how to minimize parental distress is important, as chronic distress has been linked to negative outcomes for families (Farmer & Lee, 2011). It is expected that family recourses, social support, parent efficacy, and knowledge of ASD will serve as moderators by attenuating the relation between child behavior and parental distress.
Participants were 157 caregivers (40 males) and their 157 children (130 males). Caregivers were ages 24 to 53 years (M = 34.6; SD = 5.1) and the majority identified as biological parents (96.8%). Children were ages 4 to 11 years (M = 7.0; SD = 1.8), and the majority were identified as White (80.3%) and Bi/multiracial (7.0%). Caregivers self-reported that their children were diagnosed with ASD (89.2%), Asperger’s (8.3%), and PDD-NOS (2.5%).
Participants completed: demographic survey; Behavior Assessment System for Children–3 (Reynolds & Kamphaus, 2015), assessing child behavior; Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale (Lovibond & Lovibond, 1995), assessing parental distress; Multidimensional Survey of Perceived Social Support (MSPSS; Zimet, Dahlem, Zimet, & Farley, 1988), assessing social support; Parenting Sense of Competence (PSOC; Gibaud-Wallston & Wandersman, 1978), assessing parent efficacy; Family Resource Scale (FRS; Dunst & Leet, 1987), assessing adequacy of concrete resources; and A Survey of Knowledge of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASK-ASD; Hansen, 2015), assessing perceived and actual knowledge of ASD; a discrepancy score (actual minus perceived knowledge) was also calculated.
Accounting for child gender, separate moderated regression models using PROCESS (Hayes, 2013) were examined. The child behavior problems main effect was significant (p < .05) in all analyses. There was a main effect for FRS, b = -.30, SE = .05, p < .001, and MSPSS, b = -.15, SE = .03, p < .001. The main effect for and PSOC, b = -.11, SE = .06, p = .05, and actual knowledge of ASD, b = .40, SE = .21, p = .05, approached significance. The main effect for the ASK-ASD discrepancy score was nonsignificant, b = .10, SE = .06, p = .09. Only the interaction between the ASK-ASD discrepancy score and child behavior problems was statistically significant, b = .30, SE = .12, p = .01, with distress being highest with more severe child behavior problems and more discrepant parent actual and perceived knowledge.
Results indicate variables that may be important for all caregivers, regardless of the severity of child behavior problems and suggest that interventions for parent distress in families with a child with ASD should target both parent factors and child behavior.