International Meeting for Autism Research (London, May 15-17, 2008): Symptom diversity, level, and frequency in children with autism spectrum disorder as predictors of maternal well-being

Symptom diversity, level, and frequency in children with autism spectrum disorder as predictors of maternal well-being

Saturday, May 17, 2008
Champagne Terrace/Bordeaux (Novotel London West)
9:30 AM
N. Ekas , Psychology, University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL
T. L. Whitman , University of Notre Dame, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN
Background: Previous studies have reported that autism-related symptomatology can impact maternal stress, depression, affect, and well-being. However, these factors have not been investigated together in the same study to determine the best predictor of maternal outcomes.

Objectives: To investigate the role of autism symptom diversity, level, and frequency as predictors of maternal functioning, including stress, depression, general affect, and well-being.

Methods: Participants consisted of 123 mothers with a child with autism spectrum disorder. Mothers completed the following questionnaires: Parenting Stress Index (PSI), Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (CES-D), Psychological Well-Being (Environmental Mastery, Purpose in Life, and Personal Growth scales), Positive and Negative Affect Scales (PANAS), Satisfaction with Life (SWL), Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS), and Autism Severity Index (ASI).

Results: Together, symptom diversity, level, and frequency significantly predict maternal stress, depression, life satisfaction, environmental mastery, and negative affect. Hierarchical regression analyses were conducted to determine which aspect of symptomatology was a better predictor of maternal outcomes. Preliminary results show that symptom frequency significantly predicted maternal stress (R2 change=15.7%, B=.898, p < .001), depression (R2 change=3.5%, B=.214, p = .05), environmental mastery (R2 change=5.3%, B=-.248, p < .05), life satisfaction (R2 change=5.6%, B=-.186, p < .05), and negative affect (R2 change=8.4%, B=.216, p < .001) controlling for symptom level and diversity.

Conclusions: Findings confirm that autism symptom severity predicts stress, depression, negative affect, and well-being among mothers of children with autism spectrum disorder. However, it is the frequency of symptoms as opposed to the number or level of symptoms that is a better, as well as unique, predictor of maternal outcomes. These findings suggest that interventions need to focus on not only symptom type and intensity, but also frequency of symptom occurrence when developing interventions to promote successful family outcomes.

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