Daily Sources of Autonomy-Support and Control in Mothers of Children with ASD: The Role of Child Behavior and Mothers’ Psychological Needs

Oral Presentation
Saturday, May 12, 2018: 11:45 AM
Willem Burger Zaal (de Doelen ICC Rotterdam)
L. M. Dieleman1, S. S. De Pauw2, M. Vansteenkiste1, P. Prinzie3 and B. Soenens1, (1)Department of Developmental, Personality, and Social Psychology, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium, (2)Department of Special Needs Education, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium, (3)Erasmus University Rotterdam, Rotterdam, Netherlands
Background: Many parents would probably agree that, when it comes down to rearing children, one day is not the other. On some days, parents can be patient and sensitive towards their children without any effort, whereas on other days parents can experience difficulties to be attuned to their children’s perspective and even inclined to interact with their children in a more pressuring fashion (Dix, 1991). Dairy studies in community samples have confirmed that controlling and autonomy supportive parenting behaviors vary considerably on a daily basis (e.g., Mabbe et al., in press). In parents of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), however, the short-term variability in parenting remains unexamined. Given that the specific symptoms and behaviors of children with ASD confront parents almost on a daily basis with unique challenges (e.g., Pottie, Cohen, & Ingram, 2009), it is important to advance the understanding of the daily dynamics in raising a child with ASD.

Objectives: To gain more insight in the sources of daily parenting among parents of children with ASD, this study aims to investigate whether daily variation in both child behavior and in mothers’ own psychological needs (Deci & Ryan, 2000) relates to daily variation in controlling and autonomy-supportive parenting. In addition, this study aims to offer more insight into the mechanisms underlying these daily relations by examining the mediating role of daily parental vitality and stress.

Methods: Data will be presented from a 7-day diary study examining the daily associations between child behavior (i.e., externalizing and internalizing problems, prosocial behavior), mothers’ psychological needs (i.e., autonomy, competence, and relatedness), parenting behavior (i.e., autonomy-support and controllingness), stress and vitality. In total 42 mothers (Mage = 41.60) of children with ASD (Mage = 10.94, range 7-15) participated.

Results: Analyses revealed that both daily child behavior and mothers’ psychological needs relate to day-to-day variation in parenting behavior. Moreover, the majority of these relations could be accounted for by daily stress and vitality in the mother-child interaction. More specifically, the results revealed a maladaptive and an adaptive pathway: stress accounted for the associations of externalizing child problems and maternal need frustration with controlling parenting, whereas vitality accounted for the association between need satisfaction and autonomy support.

Conclusions: This study highlights (1) that parenting is a dynamic phenomenon among mothers of children with ASS, (2) the importance of both daily child behavior and mothers’ own psychological functioning in parenting a child with ASD, and (3) the key role of daily stress and vitality in effects of daily antecedents on daily maternal parenting.