Vicarious Futurity, Hope, and Well-Being in Parents of Children with Autism

Saturday, May 19, 2012
Sheraton Hall (Sheraton Centre Toronto)
11:00 AM
D. J. Faso1, A. R. Neal2 and C. L. Carlson3, (1)University of Texas at Dallas, Dallas, TX, (2)University of Texas, Austin, TX, (3)The University of Texas, Austin, TX
Background:  Parents of children with autism are at risk of experiencing more stress and depression.  Trait Hope (tHope) has been shown to buffer some of these deleterious effects (Lloyd & Hastings, 2009).  While the broad positivity of tHope appears important to parent functioning, it may overlook the possibility that parent thoughts/feelings about their child may reflect both positive and negative components.  Vicarious Futurity (VF) is the Vicarious Hope and Vicarious Despair a parent has for their child’s future. Given that VF reflects both positive and negative components, it may more comprehensively reflect the complexity in parents’ thoughts/feelings about their child than tHope. Little is known about how VF functions in parents of children with autism aside from findings that suggest that these parents have less Vicarious Hope and more Vicarious Despair for their child’s future than parents of typically developing children (Wong & Heriot, 2007).   

Objectives:  The purpose of this study was to examine potential associations between tHope, VF, autism symptom severity (AutSeverity) and emotional functioning in parents of children with autism. We hypothesized that (1) tHope would correlate with VF, (2) autism symptom severity (AutSeverity) would predict tHope and VF, and (3) tHope and VF would each predict parenting stress, depression, and life satisfaction while controlling for symptom severity.

Methods:  Seventy-one parents (53 mothers; 18 fathers) with a child with ASD between the ages of 4-12 participated in an online study. Measures included the Hope Scale, Vicarious Futurity Scale, CES-D, Parenting Stress Index-SF, Gilliam Autism Rating Scale-2, and the Satisfaction with Life Scale.   

Results:  Correlation analyses indicated that tHope was not significantly correlated with VF (r = .201, p =.09).  Regression analyses revealed that AutSeverity did not significantly predict tHope (B =-.06, =.60) or VF (B = -.21, =.09).  Regression analyses also revealed that tHope significantly predicted higher life satisfaction (B = .380, =.001). and lower depression(B = -.443, =.000), but did not significantly predict parenting stress(B = .141, =.157).   VF significantly predicted lower parenting stress(B = -.441, =.000) and higher life satisfaction(B = .233, =.040), but did not significantly predict depression(B = -.144, =.174).

Conclusions:  The results suggest that tHope and VF each reflect unique information about parents’ thoughts/feelings, and both are important in the prediction of parent functioning.  For example, our regression analyses revealed that VF predicted parenting stress and tHope predicted depression, suggesting that dichotomous parent attitudes about their child’s future are crucial when examining how much parenting stress is experienced, and overall hopefulness is important for understanding depression in parents of children with autism.  Although these constructs function independently of each other, both VF and tHope are associated with life satisfaction, evidence that these constructs are positive measures for well-being.   It is vital to consider the individual and parental aspects of hope in order to fully understand well-being in parents of children with autism.  Additionally, child autism severity did not modulate tHope or VF for these parents, and future research should determine what factors contribute to these constructs if not child symptom severity.

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