Predictors of Positive Contributions When Raising an Individual with ASD: An Actor-Partner Interdependence Model.

Poster Presentation
Saturday, May 12, 2018: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Hall Grote Zaal (de Doelen ICC Rotterdam)
C. Garcia Lopez1,2, P. Pozo2,3, P. Recio2,3 and E. Sarria2,3, (1)UTAE, Hospital San Joan de Deu, Barcelona, Spain, (2)IMIENS (Instituto Mixto de Investigación-Escuela Nacional de Sanidad), Madrid, Spain, (3)Faculty of Psychology, UNED, Madrid, Spain
Background: Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is considered one of the developmental disorders with greatest impact on the family system. Theoretical and empirical research has typically focused on its negative impact on parental mental health, paying little attention to parents’ positive perceptions regarding ASD and the positive influence that it could produce on family adaptation. A further issue concerns the fact that the majority of studies on the ASD family field consider only one of the parent’s perceptions (generally mothers), not taking into account that family members affect one another. Particularly, couples affect each other cognitively, emotionally and behaviorally, which implies the need to consider a systematic perspective when studying ASD family adaptation. Taking into account the limitations identified in previous research, we explore the notion that parental positive perceptions might be influenced by the child with ASD but also by the psychological adaptation of the partner.

Objectives: The goal of this study is to test the benefits and potential use of the actor-partner interdependence model (APIM) in examining how different psychological adaptation measures of fathers and mothers of children with ASD influence each other’s perception of positive contributions regarding their child with ASD.

Methods: 135 Spanish father-mother dyads raising individuals with ASD completed validated questionnaires measuring different psychological adaptation measures, i.e., stress, anxiety, depression, sense of coherence and positive contributions i.e., happiness and fulfillment, personal growth and maturity and strength and family closeness. We first fitted a series of single predictor models to test for possibly confounding variables, i.e., parent and child age, family income, education level, ASD severity and behavior problems, and included the ones significantly associated with outcome measures in the final APIM models. Three sets of four models, i.e., one for each positive contribution outcome, were specified using a multilevel modeling (MLM) approach.

Results: Multilevel analysis revealed some actor effects of sense of coherence, stress and anxiety, and some partner effects of anxiety and depression to be important determinants of the perception of positive contributions, above and beyond child and sociodemographic factors. ASD severity, child age and family income were also identified as significant predictors of both progenitors’ perceptions of positive contributions.

Conclusions: The psychological adaptation measures here explored have proved to be relevant determinants of both progenitors’ perceptions of positive contributions regarding ASD, and should therefore be screened by clinicians, when working with ASD families. Professionals should also consider adjusting expectations according to the child’s ASD severity given its negative relationship with the perception of positive contributions. Finally, governments should consider new policies aiming to support ASD families’ treatment expenses.