Narratives about the Transition to Adulthood: Parent and Adolescent Differences in Visions of the Future

Saturday, May 13, 2017: 12:00 PM-1:40 PM
Golden Gate Ballroom (Marriott Marquis Hotel)
A. V. Kirby1, S. Wright1, M. L. Diener2, C. Wright1 and C. Taylor1, (1)University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT, (2)Family & Consumer Studies, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT
Background: Adolescence is a critical time in which families of adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) plan and prepare for the future. Recent evidence suggests that parental expectations in adolescence act as significant mediators of outcomes in adulthood (Kirby, 2016). However, little is known about alignment between parent and adolescent visions of the future and how their visions influence family decision-making during the transition to adulthood. Narrative approaches allow for in-depth exploration of both parent and adolescent visions of the future, which may help uncover challenges experienced by families and clarify ways for professionals to better meet families’ needs.

Objectives: To examine and compare narratives about adulthood from adolescents with ASD and their parents

Methods: To address the study objective, we analyzed qualitative interviews from adolescents with ASD and their parents from two of our research studies. In the total combined sample, we collected qualitative interviews with 23 adolescents with ASD (ages 12-17; M=15.6; 2 females) and 21 parents. Adolescent inclusion criteria for the first study was parent-reported ability to participate in an open-ended interview and for the second, anticipated receipt of a high school diploma. In both studies, each adolescent and parent were interviewed separately and asked about their visions for the future related to the adolescent transitioning to adulthood. Interviews were semi-structured in nature, audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim, and are being analyzed using multiple coders. Trustworthiness was further enhanced by using an audit-trail, triangulation with quantitative data sources (i.e., questionnaire data on parental expectations), and use of thick and detailed descriptions in the final report (Brantlinger et al., 2005).

Results: Preliminary qualitative analysis suggests drastic differences in the narratives provided by each adolescent with ASD versus those provided by their parent. In general, adolescents provided more positive and ambitious visions of their adulthood while parents provided more cautious, constrained, and less-independent visions. Quantitative results used during the triangulation process confirm the limited expectations parents held about their children’s futures. Specifically, according to parents on a 4- or 5-point scale (scale differed slightly between studies), fewer than half of the adolescents “definitely” would: live independently (17%), participate in social activities outside of work, school, or family functions (30%), get a paid job (48%), or be financially self-sufficient (17%). Complete analysis will be completed by May 2017.

Conclusions: The results of our analysis suggest that parents and adolescents have disparate views of the future which may restrict families’ abilities to effectively plan and prepare for the future. These narratives add context to recent findings that suggest parental expectations are longitudinal predictors of adult outcomes. From a justice perspective, it is important to allow adolescents self-determination when it comes to planning for their future (Wehmeyer & Shogren, 2016) while also recognizing the critical role parents play in supporting and protecting their children during this tumultuous time. Clinical implications include the need for families to have open communication during adolescence and for professionals to support both parents and adolescents to set realistic goals in order to work toward shared visions of the future.