Differences in Parenting Stress Between Monolingual and Multilingual Parents of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Participating in an Early Intervention Study
As the U.S. immigrant population grows, it becomes pressing for researchers to develop culturally and linguistically responsive interventions to better address the needs of children with ASD and their families from diverse backgrounds. Studies have shown that multilingual parents are often discouraged from speaking their primary language to their children with ASD (Jegatheesan, 2011; Kremer-Sadlik, 2005; Wharton et al., 2000; Yu, 2013). In addition, multilingual parents, with or without high English proficiency, feel less effective in showing affection and expanding their children’s language, thus precluding engaging interactions (Kremer-Sadlik, 2005; Wharton et al., 2000; Yu, 2009) and creating parenting stress (Jagatheesan, 2011; Yu, 2009; Yu, 2013). High parenting stress can have a detrimental influence on the effectiveness of intervention, negatively impacting children’s outcome (Karst & Van Hecke, 2012). However, extant research on multilingual children with ASD and their families primarily focuses on child’s language and social outcomes and rarely focuses on parental outcomes.
This study aims to evaluate stress reduction in monolingual (i.e. English as primary language) and multilingual parents across two treatment conditions, psychoeducational or caregiver-mediated, and to compare the group differences in stress reduction post treatment.
Participants (n=86) were part of a larger research study comparing the effects of two parent-mediated interventions on joint attention outcomes of toddlers (22-36 months) with ASD. Parents reported their primary languages in a demographic questionnaire. Parenting Stress Index (PSI; Abdin, 1990) was used to assess parenting stress pre- and post-treatment. Two-way ANOVA was used to compare group differences in stress reduction between monolingual and multilingual parents across treatment groups.
65% of the participating caregivers were monolingual, with English as their only language, and 77.9% having a college or higher degree. Due to attrition and missing data, only 78 out of the original 86 participants were included (mean age=35.9); 78% of the participants that were not included are monolingual. Two-way ANOVA showed no statistically significant interaction between parents’ language status and treatment assignment (F1, 74= .995, ns).
The results find no interaction between parents’ language status and group treatment group on stress reduction. However, it is worth noting that majority of the parents participating this study are monolingual and having obtained a college or higher degree. Hence, this particular group of participants might have been at advantage in overcoming potential linguistic barriers, which could contribute to parenting stress, compared to lower-resourced families from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. Future research should explore if accommodating parents’ preferred language when developing parent education program and parent-mediated interventions directly reduces parenting stress.