Parental Stress, Marital Satisfaction and Stigma in Lithuanian Parents Raising Child with ASD

Poster Presentation
Saturday, May 12, 2018: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Hall Grote Zaal (de Doelen ICC Rotterdam)
R. Buivydaite1, C. Newton2 and A. Prasauskiene3, (1)University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, (2)Kenya Medical Research Institute, Kilifi, KENYA, (3)Psychiatry, Lithuanian Health University, Kaunas, Lithuania
Background: The research has revealed that there are few studies about autism conducted in Eastern Europe (Mikulenaitė & Ūllevičiūtė, 2004; Lesinskienė et al, 2008). The research project is motivated by lack of studies on autism in Lithuania, particularly the stress experienced by the parents. Experiences of stigma leads to increased parental stress. High levels of parental stress are correlated with mental health problems like depression and anxiety (Jones et al, 2008).

Objectives: Therefore, we conducted a study to explore parental mental health, marital satisfaction and experiences of stigma for parents raising children with autism, cerebral palsy and controls in Lithuania.

Methods: Participants - parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) 137, cerebral palsy (CP) 100, typically developing (TD) 140. Tools - Socio-demographic questionnaire, Parental Stress Index by Abidin 1992 (PSI –SF), Couple satisfaction index by Funk & Rogge 2008 (CSI) and Family Interview Schedule stigma scale by World Health organization 1994 (FISSS). Procedure - parents are informed through hospital staff in Lithuania, parents association of autism and cerebral palsy. Typically developing children parents were approached via schools.

Results: Results revealed that parental stress is highly experienced in ASD and CP group. There were no parental difference between mothers and fathers of children with ASD. Also the levels of experienced stigma was equally high between ASD and CP parents’, stating that in Lithuania there is no difference in experience of stigma between ‘visible’ and ‘invisible’ disabilities, contradicting the existing findings from previous studies. Moreover, this study revealed, the higher divorce rate for autism group compared with other two groups. We also found, that autism characteristics, such as difficult behaviour, lack of communication and parenting styles were the underlying factors for the parental stress among the parents of children with ASD.

Conclusions: This study revealed the underlying issues that parent’s, who are raising child with autism, face in their day to day lives while raising a child in Lithuania. This research informs about the stress levels, experience of stigma and marital satisfaction that must be address with urgent support for families.