Family Burden Among Latino Families with Children on the Autism Spectrum

Thursday, May 17, 2012
Sheraton Hall (Sheraton Centre Toronto)
2:00 PM
K. Lopez1 and S. Magana2, (1)Social Work & Developmental Psychology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, (2)Waisman Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI
Background: Growing diversity among children identified with autism illustrates the need to consider variation in the experience of raising a child with autism among racial/ethnic groups (Higgins, Bailey, & Pearce, 2005). Latino children face numerous challenges including poverty, environmental hazards, and restricted access to health care that put them at higher risk for developmental disabilities (Flores, Abreu, & Kastner, 1998). The available research about Latino caregivers of children with developmental disabilities suggests family problems constitute a unique contributor to the experience of Latino caregivers and families raising a child with intellectual impairment (Magaña, Seltzer, & Krauss, 2004; Magaña, Schwartz, Rubert, & Szapocznik, 2006). However, little is known about the experience of Latino families raising children with autism across parent and family outcomes.

Objectives: We aimed to compare mother-reported pessimism and family burden among Latino and non-Latino White families raising children with autism.  Second, we aimed to determine the impact of child, caregiver, and family factors on mother-reported levels of pessimism and family burden.

Methods: Forty-eight Latino caregivers and 59 non-Latino White caregivers were administered a questionnaire on their experiences with their child’s diagnosis and service use. Families were recruited through service agencies and support groups in Wisconsin. Children were between 3 and 21 years of age (μ=9.6; SD=4.5) at the time of the study. Pessimism and family burden were measured with the Questionnaire on Resources and Stress (QRS-FR; Friedrich, Greenberg, & Crnic, 1983). T-tests and Chi-squares were conducted to identify differences between Latinas and non-Latina Whites on variables correlated with pessimism and family burden. Linear regression was used to test child, mother, and family factors as predictors of pessimism and family burden.

Results: T-tests indicated that Latina mothers reported lower levels of pessimism µ=5.11(2.06) than White mothers µ=6.56(3.46). A similar pattern was found for family burden, with Latina mothers µ=5.35(3.88) reporting lower levels of family burden than White mothers µ=8.16(3.63). Regression analyses were used to assess the ability of child, parent, and family factors to predict pessimism and family burden. Being Latina and higher levels of family cohesion predicted lower levels of pessimism. Increases in maternal age predicted higher pessimism. More child behavior problems, increased maternal age, higher levels of maternal education, and higher family income predicted higher levels of family burden. Being Latino and higher levels of family cohesion predicted lower family burden. Family cohesion accounted for the largest amount of variance for both pessimism (adjusted R square=.206) and family burden (adjusted R square=.133).

Conclusions: Contrary to research on parents of persons with ID, Latina mothers reported lower pessimism and family burden than White families in this study. The results suggest a need to explore how Latinos conceptualize autism, as it may affect caregiver and family experience. Analyses also indicated that child, caregiver and family factors were predictive of mother-reported pessimism and family burden. Given that family cohesion largely contributed to both outcomes we suggest a family systems approach to working with children on the spectrum and their families.

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