International Meeting for Autism Research: Predictors of Support Group Use in Parents of Children with ASD: Testing the Self-Regulatory Model

Predictors of Support Group Use in Parents of Children with ASD: Testing the Self-Regulatory Model

Saturday, May 22, 2010
Franklin Hall B Level 4 (Philadelphia Marriott Downtown)
9:00 AM
T. Clifford , Psychology, Queen's University, Kingston, ON, Canada
P. Minnes , Psychology, Queen's University, Kingston, ON, Canada
Background: Support groups have been shown to be an effective source of support in a number of populations (e.g., Beaudoin & Tao, 2007, Preyde & Ardal, 2003; Singer, et al., 1999). Previous research with parents of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) has found that family demographic variables, clinical characteristics of the child, and having been referred by the diagnosing clinician predicted support group use (Mandell & Salzer, 2007). In other populations coping style, perceived controllability of the disorder, mood, social support, and beliefs and attitudes about support groups have been an important predictors of use (Grande, Myers, & Sutton, 2006; Fontana, Fleischman, McCarton, Meltzer, & Ruff, 1988; Mickelson, 1997; Smith, Gabard, Dale, & Drucker, 1994).

The Self-Regulatory Model (Leventhal, Benyamini, Brownlee, Diefenbach, Leventhal, Patrick-Miller et al., 1997; Leventhal, Brissette, & Leventhal, 2003) asserts that representations of the illness, coping strategies used in dealing with the illness, and social input received from significant others (i.e., family, friends, professionals) contribute to decisions about seeking treatment or help. This model has been widely used in evaluating treatment use and adherence to treatment for individuals with a variety of medical illnesses (e.g., Bradley, Calvert, Pitts, & Redman, 2001; Hobro, Weinman, & Hankins, 2004; Whitmarsh, Koutantji, & Sidell, 2003) and has recently been proposed as a useful model for understanding treatment use for people with mental health problems (Lobban, Barrowclough, & Jones, 2003).

Objectives: This study will examine predictors of support group use for parents of children with ASD using the self-regulatory model (Leventhal et al., 1997; Leventhal et al., 2003). The following predictors will be examined; beliefs about controllability and cause of ASD, beliefs about support groups, mood, coping style, and social support.  

Methods: Parents of children with ASD were invited to complete a series of online questionnaires measuring their beliefs about support groups and ASD, coping styles, social support, mood, parenting stress, and their child’s autistic symptoms and daily functioning.

Results: Data collection is ongoing. We expect that parents who are involved in support groups may be differentiated from those who are not participating in support groups, based on their coping styles, social support, mood, and beliefs about ASD and support groups. Specifically, we hypothesize that parents who are involved in support groups will report: 1) greater use of adaptive coping strategies (e.g., reframing and support-seeking), 2) fewer social supports, and 3) stronger beliefs that support groups can be helpful to parents with a child with ASD.  

Conclusions: Learning about the differences between parents who use support groups and those who do not will help in the development of interventions to support all parents of children with ASD.

The first author is supported by a SSHRC Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada CGS Doctoral Scholarship [Award # 767-2008-2150]. She is a trainee with the CIHR/NAAR STIHR Inter-Institute Autism Spectrum Disorders Program (PI: JJAH).

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