International Meeting for Autism Research: Predictors of Parental Self-Efficacy in Parents Raising Adolescents with ASDs

Predictors of Parental Self-Efficacy in Parents Raising Adolescents with ASDs

Thursday, May 20, 2010
Franklin Hall B Level 4 (Philadelphia Marriott Downtown)
3:00 PM
M. D. Lerner , Psychology, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
F. Martinez-Pedraza , Psychology, University of Massachusetts Boston, Boston, MA
N. Chae , Psychology, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
A. S. Carter , Psychology, University of Massachusetts Boston, Boston, MA
Background: Parental self-efficacy has been identified as a significant variable associated with parental wellbeing and positive parenting outcomes. In particular, parents’ beliefs about their parenting capacity and influence on their children’s development have been associated with stress and depression experienced by parents in challenging parenting situations (Coleman & Karraker, 1998). Parents of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) face unique challenges and have often reported elevated parental stress and depressive symptoms, and lower parental efficacy (Kuhn & Carter, 2006), which have been associated with child-level factors such as behavioral problems (Hastings, 2003). However, research on parental self-efficacy in ASD populations has focused on parent-reported factors in young children. Adolescents with ASDs experience increasing challenges, become more aware of their social difficulties, and explore autonomy (Seltzer et al, 2003). Identifying the relative contribution of child-level factors to parental efficacy, particularly among parents of adolescents with ASDs, would help elaborate the ongoing challenges of parents of youth with ASDs, and elucidate developmental trajectories underlying these families’ self-efficacy.

Objectives: 1. To assess relative contributions to parental self-efficacy of self-reported and parent-reported characteristics of adolescents with ASDs. 2. To examine whether youth depressive symptoms moderated social skills in predicting parental self-efficacy.

Methods: Seventeen youth (12 male; ages 11 -22 years) with ASDs completed reports of their social skills (Social Skills Rating System – Child [SSRS-C]; Gresham & Elliott, 1990), depressive symptoms (Child Depression Inventory [CDI]; Kovacs, 1992), and social anxiety symptoms (Social Anxiety Scales; LaGreca, 1999). Their parents (14 female, ages 35 - 69) completed reports of child social skills (SSRS-Parent), autism-related symptoms (Social Communication Questionnaire; Rutter, Bailey, & Lord, 2005), nonverbal communication (Emory Dyssemia Index; Love, Nowicki, & Duke, 1994), and their own parental self-efficacy (Parental Self Efficacy Scale [PSES]; Bandura et al., 2001).

Results: A stepwise regression model revealed that only CDI (β = -.54, p < .05) and SSRS-C (β = -.60, p < .05) were significantly associated with parenting efficacy. Following Holmbeck (2002), moderation analysis of centered predictors using hierarchical multiple regression revealed significant moderation (β = .80, p < .05) by child depression of the effects of self-reported social skills on parental self-efficacy. Post-hoc analyses revealed that among less depressed youth, higher self-reported social skills predicted lower parental self-efficacy (β = -.94, p < .01); among more depressed youth, self-reported social skills were not associated with parental self-efficacy (β = .78, p = .15).

Conclusions: In contrast to expectations, only child self-reported characteristics (depression and social skills) were associated with parental self-efficacy. A moderating relationship was found; higher child self-reported social skills significantly predicted lower parental self-efficacy, but only among adolescents who reported less depression. Social skills did not enhance parental efficacy when depressive symptoms were elevated. This suggests that adolescents with ASDs who report high social skills and low depressive symptoms have parents who report more competence in affecting their children’s lives. However, when self-reported depressive symptoms are high, higher social skills are not sufficient to increase parental self-efficacy. Future research should further explore child-level predictors of parental self-efficacy.

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