Objectives: The aim of this study was to explore whether suboptimal parenting styles exist in families with a child with ASD (+ADHD) and to what extent these were related to parent and/or offspring symptoms.
Methods: 96 families were recruited with one child (2-20 years) with a clinical ASD (+ADHD) diagnosis, and one unaffected sibling. Parental ASD and ADHD symptoms were assessed using self-reports. The Parenting Styles Dimensions Questionnaire (PSDQ) self- and spouse report were used to measure the authoritative, authoritarian and permissive parenting styles.
Results: Fathers and mothers scored significantly higher than the norm on the permissive, and lower on the authoritative and authoritarian parenting style for affected and unaffected children. Self- and spouse report correlated moderately to highly. Higher levels of paternal and maternal ADHD symptoms were related to suboptimal scores to almost all parenting styles. Further, an interaction effect was found, indicating that mothers with high ASD symptoms reported to use a more permissive parenting style only towards their unaffected child.
Conclusions: In ASD (+ADHD) families, parents report to use a less optimal parenting style. This appeared true for both fathers and mothers, was mostly unrelated to the diagnosis of the child, but primarily to parental self-reported ADHD and less to ASD symptoms. Parenting training in ASD (+ADHD) families may be beneficial for the well being of both parents and their offspring.