RESEARCH NEWS: PARENTING STRESS AND AUTISM

18 Nov

RESEARCH NEWS

Parenting Stress and Autism: Impact of Hyperactivity

Raising a child with autism is among the most difficult of parental challenges.

A study based on a sample of 150 parents of Dutch children with high-functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), found that hyperactivitywas the child characteristic that most strongly predicted level of parenting stress. The parents were mostly mothers (72%); married (90%); well-educated and in middle to high level jobs. The children were aged between 6.4 and 18.8 years; all were cognitively able.

Parenting stress was measured according to the parents’ perception of demands on them and their own perceptions of their parenting skills in response to those demands).

The impact of hyperactivity on parenting stress was thought to arise from parents’ discomfort when their child’s socially inappropriate and disruptive behavior drew disapproval from others.

Of lesser impact were the child’s social interaction skills and the child’s quality of life (as perceived by the parent). The child’s age and verbal ability were not observed to influence parenting stress.

The observed effect of hyperactivity on parental stress implies that parents of children with autism need assistance and education for managing the child’s problem behavior to improve their parenting skills.

Increased support from the social environment in the form of greater knowledge about autism behaviors and acceptance of the often momentary and transient disruptive behavior of children with autism when in public may also reduce parenting stress.

Reference: "The role of age, autism severity, quality of life and problem behaviour of children and adolescents with autism. Authors: Rebecca L. McStay, Cheryl Dissanayake, Anke Scheeren, Hans M Koot and Sander Begeer. Published on line in Autism, October 8, 2013.

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