The Effects of Mindfulness Practice on Psychological Wellbeing in Mothers of Children with ASD: A PILOT Study

Saturday, May 13, 2017: 12:00 PM-1:40 PM
Golden Gate Ballroom (Marriott Marquis Hotel)
N. Miodrag1, I. Weiner2, J. Rivas1, S. Stembridge3, E. Weible4 and D. Boyns5,6, (1)Child and Adolescent Development, California State University Northridge, Northridge, CA, (2)Special Education, California State University Northridge, Northridge, CA, (3)California State University Northridge, Northridge, CA, (4)Family Focus Resource Center, California State University Northridge, Northridge, CA, (5)Sociology, California State University Northridge, Northridge, CA, (6)Institute for Community Health and Wellbeing, Northridge, CA
Background: Mothers of children with ASD report high levels of psychological stress, significantly lower sense of self-efficacy about parenting their child with ASD, and higher levels of stress and depressive symptoms compared to mothers of children who are typically developing. Others have found lower levels of life satisfaction, social support, and self-esteem compared to controls. Aspects of the child’s diagnosis, lack of service delivery, and daily challenges in care can negatively impact wellbeing. Practicing mindfulness has been shown to reduce stress among vulnerable populations, but such interventions have only recently been examined among mothers of children with ASD. A meta-analysis of mindfulness studies found that of 18,756 studies on mindfulness practice, only a small number fit the standards of scientific rigor because of the absence of either control or comparison groups, or both. This study contributes to the research on mindfulness as a means to increase maternal wellbeing and fill the gap in the literature by incorporating a comparison and control group.

Objectives: This study examines the effectiveness of mindfulness practice on self-esteem, self-efficacy, psychological wellbeing, parenting stress, and life satisfaction among mothers of children with ASD. We also set out to examine group differences across mothers participating in three groups: (1) a mindfulness practice intervention, (2) a discussion-based intervention, and (3) no-intervention controls.

Methods: Twenty-seven mothers were assigned to groups: mindfulness (n = 11), discussion-based (n = 6), or control (n = 10). Mothers in the mindfulness and discussion-based groups attended 8 weekly sessions for 90 minutes. Mindfulness intervention focused on breath counting, seated meditation, body scans, and loving-kindness practice. The discussion-based group served as a comparison for the mindfulness group, focusing on discussions about parenting children with ASD. Controls received no intervention during the 8-week period. All participants completed the following pre- and post-intervention measures: Rosenberg self-esteem scale, Generalized Self-Efficacy scale, Ryff Scales of Psychological Well-being, Parental Stress scale, and Satisfaction with Life scale. In addition, individuals in the mindfulness and support groups participated in focus group interviews after the 8-week intervention.

Results: Z scores were computed for pre-posttest comparisons. The results suggest significant differences from pre- to post-intervention for the mindfulness group on perceived: satisfaction with life, self-esteem, self-efficacy, psychological wellbeing and subscales of autonomy, environmental mastery, personal growth, positive relations, and purpose in life. There were no significant results for the discussion-based and control groups (with the exception of the purpose in life subscale for controls). No significant results were found for parental stress. Results from qualitative focus groups provide support for the pre-post test comparisons. These results suggest that while the subjective experience of parenting stress was not significantly affected by the intervention, participants in the mindfulness group developed considerable acceptance of their life circumstances, as well as practical tools to cope with the uncertainties of stressful parenting.

Conclusions: Findings support the utility of mindfulness practice for increasing aspects of psychological wellbeing. Perceptions of parental stress did not decrease. Mothers of children with ASD can benefit from low cost, non-medical, and readily accessible mindfulness programs.