Objectives: The current study attempts to define the construct of FNSJ by examining the correlates of Fear of Close Social Judgment (FCSJ) versus Fear of Public Judgment (FPJ) and their relations to parenting stress. FCSJ refers to a mother’s concern that her close family and friends do not accept her child with autism. FPJ refers to a mother’s fear that her child is not accepted by the public.
Methods: 68 mothers of children with autism spectrum disorders (mean age of 9 years) completed phone interviews. Participants completed 5 scales: the Parenting Stress Index Short-Form (PSI), Scales of Independent Behaviour-Revised Adaptive Behaviour Scale, Autism Behaviour Checklist, the Social Support Questionnaire and a revision of the Family Impact Questionnaire (designed to assess parent efficacy and fear of social judgment).
Results: Although both FCSJ and FPJ were significantly correlated with parenting stress, FCSJ was more highly correlated with maternal distress on the PSI (r = .70, p <.00) than FPJ (r = .46, p < .00). Mothers with a larger family support network reported less FCSJ (r = -.329, p <.00). The quantity of “autism-like” behaviours (e.g., echolalia, “flapping”) displayed by their child was significantly correlated with maternal FPJ (r = .60, p < .00) but not FCSJ.
Conclusions: It is informative to conceptualize FNSJ as being comprised of FPJ and FCSJ given that separate factors are related to these more specific constructs. Future studies should explore whether high FCSJ is more detrimental to maternal mental health than elevated FPJ.