Parental Report of Familial Factors Influencing Emotional and Relational Functioning of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Thursday, May 15, 2014
Atrium Ballroom (Marriott Marquis Atlanta)
K. L. Dykshoorn, Educational Psychology - Counselling Psychology, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada
Background: For children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), sibling relationships can be their primary peer influences.  The connections and tensions in sibling relationship may impact the development, well-being and life quality that children with ASD experience.  Evaluating how ASD affects sibling relationships is imperative, because positive sibling relationships lead to a higher quality of life presently and in the future, for both children (Beyer, 2009).  Similarly, the caregiver’s style affects both the sibling relationship and the development of each child (Doron & Sharabany, 2013).  Williams et al. (2009) provide evidence supporting the positive impacts of authoritative parenting and the negative consequences of authoritarian parenting on the development of children.  Further, despite best intentions, parenting stress can make parenting in an effective way difficult (Mills-Koonce et al., 2011) and caregivers raising a child with ASD often experience increased stress levels (Dabrowska & Pisula, 2010).  Finally, the interplay between sibling relationships, caregiver characteristics, and success in ASD intervention is of interest.  

Objectives: The integrated use of parenting habits and positive sibling relationships in promoting greater caregiver-perceived success in ASD intervention is worth evaluating and enhancing.  The present study addressed the following variable associations: 1) parenting style and parenting stress impacting the sibling relationship; 2) sibling involvement in ASD intervention and success in ASD intervention strengthening the sibling relationship; and 3) parenting style, sibling involvement in ASD intervention and positive sibling relationships promoting greater degrees of success in ASD intervention.   

Methods: Primary caregivers (N = 108) completed an online questionnaire including: (1) the Sibling Relationship Questionnaire – Revised (Parent; Furman & Buhrmester, 1985); (2) the Parental Authority Questionnaire – Revised (Reitman, Rhode, Hupp, & Altobello, 2002); (3) the Parenting Stress Index – Short Form (Abidin, 1990); questionnaires developed by the author to evaluate (4) sibling involvement in ASD intervention and (5) parent-identified success in ASD intervention; and (6) a background questionnaire.  

Results: Results indicated: 1) Parenting stress explains 12% of the variance found in the warmth and closeness of sibling relationships; 2) Sibling involvement and success in ASD intervention cumulatively contributes to 13.5% of the variance found in the warmth and closeness of sibling relationships; and 3) warmth and closeness uniquely explains 7% of the variance of success in ASD intervention.  

Conclusions: The variances explained by the results of this study are significant and highlight the interconnectivity of factors contributing to children with ASD’s success.  Recognition of these relationships has important clinical significance, as it suggests an area of neglect in current practice with children with ASD.  These areas will be discussed and clinical recommendations will be made.  Enhancement of family well-being is important for each member of the family, including children with ASD.  Theoretically, a shift from an individualistic framework to a systemic framework of ASD services and research is essential. Rather than focusing practice solely on the child with ASD, dedicating time to educating and assisting caregivers, understanding siblings and their needs, and promoting functioning and well-being for the children with ASD would be advantageous.

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