Parent Expectancies: A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy?
Parental beliefs and expectancies about their children’s treatment may influence the overall outcome of treatment. This is because it is generally parents who provide consent for their children, determine their treatment participation, and manage attendance.
The Parent Expectancies for Therapy Scale (PETS, Kazdin & Holland, 1991) is a measure for assessing expectancies in parents of children treated for conduct disorder. Adapted versions of the PETS have been administered in several treatment studies for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). However, to our knowledge, analyses of the PETS and its correlates have not been conducted or validated with a sample of parents of children with ASD.
The current study determined the underlying factor structure of parent expectancies for parents of children with ASD using the PETS. Additionally, we examined the relationship between parent expectancies and parent participation in treatment.
The study is a secondary data analysis of three social communication intervention studies. Participants included 294 parents of preschoolers and toddlers with ASD.
The PETS is a parent questionnaire that assesses the broad range of pre-treatment expectancies on a 5-point scale. The current study examined adapted versions of the PETS used across studies. The dataset only included questions that all three adapted scales had in common, leaving a total of 16 questions.
The Caregiver Quality of Involvement Scale (CQIS) is a therapist-rated, 4-item scale used to evaluate caregivers’ levels of comfort, confidence, enthusiasm, and accuracy in implementing intervention strategies learned during parent training sessions. The CQIS was completed at the end of each parent training intervention session by the therapist.
An exploratory factor analysis (EFA) was conducted to determine the structure and relationships between variables of parent expectancies in the PETS. Data were analyzed using maximum likelihood with Comprehensive Exploratory Factor Analysis software. Composites of parent expectancies factors were then analyzed through correlations and linear regression with each of the parent involvement subscale scores.
The EFA revealed a four-factor structure, with latent factors related to credibility of treatment, belief in child improvement, parent involvement in treatment, and comparability to other treatments. Expectancies of treatment credibility were significantly correlated with all four components of parent involvement. Expectancies for child improvement were significantly correlated with three parent involvement subscales (comfort, confidence, accuracy). Regression analyses indicated that only expectation of child improvement significantly predicted level of parent comfort in implementing intervention during parent training (F(1,180)=8.067, p=0.005); all other regression analyses were nonsignificant.
Parent pre-treatment expectancies pertaining to treatment credibility and child improvement were related to parents’ involvement as rated by therapists. These findings indicate that credibility of treatment and belief in child improvement may be especially salient and motivating to parents of children with ASD. However, parent expectancies regarding their own involvement in treatment were not reflected in their involvement scores, highlighting that there may be additional factors influencing the predictive relationship between expectancies and involvement. As parent training in ASD intervention is a growing field, there is a need to better understand parent perspectives and experiences.