Objectives: 1) to characterize parenting behaviour among mothers of children with ASD and to explore differences compared to mothers of children without ASD; 2) to study the relation between parenting behaviour and child’s age and gender in both groups; 3) to examine whether and how parenting behaviour is related to externalizing and internalizing behaviour problems of the children.
Methods: In this study 552 families of a child with ASD are compared with a control group of 437 families with a child without ASD (age range: 6-18 years). The Parental Behaviour Scale-short version (PBS; Van Leeuwen & Vermulst, 2010) was used to measure general parenting behaviour (Positive Parenting, Discipline, Harsh Punishment, Material Rewarding, and Rules), in combination with additional subscales to measure specific parenting behaviour relevant to children with ASD (Stimulating the Development and Adapting the Environment; Lambrechts et al., 2011). The Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire was administered to evaluate behaviour problems. The first four subscales were used, creating two composite scores for internalizing behaviour problems (emotional and peer items) and externalizing behaviour problems (conduct and hyperactivity items) (Goodman et al., 2010).
Results: MANOVAs with diagnosis, gender, and age (primary vs. secondary education) as factors showed that mothers of children with ASD exhibit different parenting behaviour in several domains compared to the control group. Mothers of children with ASD utilize less Rules and Discipline (ps < .001), and show more Positive Parenting (p = .02). They also stimulate the development of their child and adapt the environment more often than the control group (ps < .001). Gender effects are found for Discipline and Stimulating the Development (ps < .01), whereas age effects are present in the domains Positive Parenting and Adapting the Environment (ps< .001). In general, only weak correlations were found between behaviour problems and parenting behaviour. Different parenting behaviour patterns are seen for externalizing versus internalizing behaviour problems.
Conclusions: Results indicate that more specifically relevant parenting was seen in the group of mothers with a child with ASD, but also differences in general parenting behaviour were present. The correlation patterns between behaviour problems and parenting behaviour suggest the presence of coercive family processes for externalizing behaviour problems in both groups. Internalizing problems are related to autism specific parenting behaviour in the ASD group. Future studies using observational and longitudinal measures are needed to validate these findings. Overall, this study will provide suggestions to improve prevention and intervention of behaviour problems by enhancing parenting skills.
See more of: Clinical Phenotype
See more of: Symptoms, Diagnosis & Phenotype