The Broad Autism Phenotype and Parenting Sense of Competence in Mothers of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Mothers of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) face unique challenges associated with parenting their child. These challenges may lead to increased parenting stress and depression in mothers (Davis & Carter, 2008). Mothers of children with ASD also report negative perceptions of their own parenting abilities compared to parents of typically developing children (Giallo et al., 2013). Mothers of a child with ASD may experience milder symptoms characteristic of ASD, which are referred to as the broad autism phenotype (BAP). Higher levels of BAP symptoms are associated with increased depressive symptoms (Ingersoll & Hambrick, 2011); however, Lau and colleagues (2016) found no associations between BAP and parenting sense of competence (PSOC).
Objectives: To examine the association between the BAP and PSOCe in mothers of children with ASD. This study also sought to examine whether aspects of maternal well-being mediate this association.
Methods: Eighty-two mothers of a child with ASD (Mchildage = 8.70 years) participated in this study. Mothers completed surveys online via Qualtrics. Surveys included the Broad Autism Phenotype Questionnaire, the Parenting Sense of Competence scale (subscales consist of parenting satisfaction and parenting efficacy), the Center for Epidemiological Studies-Depression scale, and a measure of benefit finding. All scales have been used with this population in previous research.
Results: Maternal BAP was negatively associated with PSOC (r = -.36, p = .001). The PROCESS macro in SPSS was used to examine the hypothesized mediation model depicted in Figure 1a. As shown in Figure 1b, the direct effect of the BAP on PSOC was not significant (b = -2.96, SE = 1.54, p = .06). Instead, the association between the BAP and PSOC was mediated by maternal depressive symptoms (indirect effect = -1.07, SE = .54; 95% CI: -2.49, -.26), such that increased BAP symptoms were associated with elevated depressive symptoms which, in turn, were associated with lower PSOC. Although benefit finding was associated with both BAP symptoms and PSOC, the indirect effect fell short of significance (indirect effect = -1.06, SE = .71; 95% CI: -2.74, .13). Follow-up analyses with the individual subscales of the PSOC found that depressive symptoms mediated the association between BAP and parenting satisfaction (indirect effect = -.86, SE = .40; 95% CI: -1.87, -.26); however, only benefit finding mediated the association between BAP and parenting efficacy (indirect effect = -.78, SE = .38; 95% CI: -1.74, -.18).
Conclusions: Mothers of children with ASD who report elevated BAP symptoms also report feeling less competent as a parent. This relationship was explained by maternal depressive symptoms and the ability to find benefits as a result of their child’s diagnosis. The BAP consists of difficulties making and maintaining relationships and difficulty adapting to change. Therefore, it is possible that these difficulties exacerbate the already existing challenges of parenting a child with ASD. Given that mothers of children with ASD with elevated BAP symptoms have difficulty implementing parent-mediated interventions (Parr et al., 2015), the results of this study highlight an important area for clinical consideration.