Psychological Burden on Parents of Children with Autism in Oman
Caregivers of children with ASD may be prone to different psychological distress such as stress, depression, grief, fatigue and changes in social relationships. Few studies have attempted to quantify the psychological burden on caregivers manifested as feeling with embarrassment, overload, resentment, isolation from society, and loss of control.
The aim of this study is to evaluate the severity of psychological burden among parents of children with autism in Oman in comparison to parents of non-ASD children.
A population-based case-control study was conducted among parents of 122 cases of children with ASD and 122 non-ASD controls. The controls were matched on age, gender, ethnicity, and place of residence. A standardized and validated Arabic version of The Zarit Burden Interview (ZBI-22) has been used to evaluate the level of burden among cases and controls.
Overall, the mean ZBI-22 score of psychological burden among parents of children with ASD was 42.9 (SD = 17.6) which was significantly higher than that among parents of control group (26; SD= 10.8), P-value = 0.04. Among cases, 17% of parents suffered from severe psychological burden compared to none among controls. A substantial proportion of cases (31%) reported moderate psychological burden compared to only 12% among controls, and the difference was statistically significant (P= 0.01). Among cases, mothers reported a higher mean ZBI-22 score compared to fathers (49.7 vs. 35.5), and the proportion of mothers who suffered from severe burden was significantly higher than that among fathers (29% vs. 5%; P-value = 0.001).
The study provides a suggestive evidence that the psychological burden on parents caring for children with ASD is substantial, especially among mothers. The study calls for considering provision of psychological support to parents as an essential component of holistic approach of management of cases of ASD children.