Dr. Young's LabPredictors of adjustment in parents of children with autistic spectrum disorders
Jennifer Gorski, dissertation, 2003
Research suggests that parents of children with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) experience more stress and depression related to their child's diagnosis when compared to parents of children with other developmental disabilities and when compared to parents of children without disabilities. The primary purpose of this study was to direct research for this population in a new direction, by assessing the role of individual difference variables, including self-efficacy and attributional style, in the prediction of parental adjustment. The study also addressed a methodological weakness found in the parental adjustment literature by disentangling the measurement of child characteristics (demands), stress, and depressed mood (strain) in these parents. Forty-six mothers of children with autistic spectrum disorder completed questionnaires assessing child symptom severity, stress, depressive symptoms, self-efficacy, and attributional style for negative events. As hypothesized, parental stress was predicted by autistic symptom severity and depressive symptom severity was predicted by stress. Contrary to predictions, self-efficacy did not mediate the relationship between stress and depressive symptoms. Individual difference variables, including self-efficacy and attributional style were directly related to depressive symptoms. Results suggest that stress, apart from individual difference variables, may be an important variable in the prediction of depressive symptoms for this population. Implications of findings as well as future directions for research are discussed.