An Exploratory Study of the Impact of Autism Traits on Parenting

Saturday, May 13, 2017: 12:00 PM-1:40 PM
Golden Gate Ballroom (Marriott Marquis Hotel)
C. Dissanayake1, A. L. Richdale2, N. Kolivas3 and L. Pamment4, (1)Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre, Bundoora, Australia, (2)Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre, Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre, Bundoora, Australia, (3)Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia, (4)Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre, La Trobe University, Bundoora, Australia
Background: Despite a rich general literature on parenting typically developing children (TD), there is a paucity of research examining the influence of autism traits on parenting. Given that autism traits are believed to be normally distributed and are associated with traits such as anxiety and depression, they may have a negative impact on parenting. However, no studies to date have examined whether such traits are related to parenting TD children. Such information is important to establish the need, if any, for parenting supports for parents with high autism traits.

Objectives: Our overall aim was to investigate the influence of autism traits on self-reported parent’s sense of competence to establish whether they influence the parenting of TD children. We also investigated whether autism traits contribute to the self-reported parent-child relationship, and whether parenting needs differ between parents with high and low traits of autism.

Methods: Fifty-eight (58) parents (50 mothers) with either a child/ren or a first degree relative with autism anda TD child under 18 years (target child) completed the Autism Quotient (AQ). In addition to a set of control measures (e.g., SES, Depression, Anxiety and Stress etc.), parents completed questionnaires on Parenting Sense of Competence, the Parent-Child Relationship, Parenting Difficulties and Family Quality of Life (QoL). They also completed the Child-AQ and the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) with regard to their target TD child.

Results: Parent AQ scores were moderately correlated with the Child-AQ (r= .34), but not with the SDQ. Regression analyses examined the unique contribution of parental autism traits to parenting and quality of life (QoL) variables, and the parent-child relationship (after controlling for the DASS). Autism traits did not uniquely contribute to parenting satisfaction and efficacy (competence), QoL, or the parent-child relationship, with the exception that parents with high autism traits reported less involvement with their TD child.

Parents with high (>26; n = 20) and low (<20; n = 32) AQ scores were compared on reported parenting difficulties/needs; parent with high autism traits reported significantly more parenting difficulties/needs compared to parents with low traits.

Conclusions: The wealth of available parenting resources may not address the specific needs of parents on the autism spectrum. Although autism traits did not impact on parenting sense of competence, QoL or the parent-child relationship, they impacted on parent-reported levels of involvement with their TD child, and parenting difficulties. Thus, supports should be built around these specific aspects of parenting to assist parents on the autism spectrum prosper in their parenting role.