The Influence of Ethnic Culture on Profiles of Stress and Coping in Caregivers of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Saturday, May 14, 2016: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Hall A (Baltimore Convention Center)
T. V. Williams1, K. Hartmann2 and M. Urbano2, (1)Virginia Consortium Program in Clinical Psychology, Norfolk, VA, (2)Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk, VA
Background:  High parental stress is associated with parental depression, anxiety, and use of harsh parenting techniques.  The impact of parental stress is magnified for a child with a diagnosis of ASD.  African American families traditionally face additional stressors including structural racism, discrimination, fewer financial resources, and single parent homes.  The literature suggests that African American families rely on more varied coping styles to manage the burden of additional stressors.  Coping styles are likely influenced by individual acculturation to native culture versus the Euro-American majority culture in the United States.

Objectives:  The present study intends to add to the literature by exploring African American caregivers’ experiences when caring for a child with ASD in comparison to their ethnic majority counterparts. This research compares the stress and coping profiles of three cultural groups: Caucasian caregivers, African American caregivers that are more acculturated with the majority culture, and African American caregivers that ascribe to more traditional African American cultural beliefs. 

Methods:  We are aiming to collect responses from a minimum of 100 caregivers of children with ASD.  Data collection is ongoing with 41 completed participants at the time of abstract submission. Caregivers were asked to complete a series of questionnaires in an online survey.  The measures include: a demographic questionnaire, a measure to confirm the presence of ASD symptomology (Autism Spectrum Rating Scale), five measures related to parental stress and coping (Parenting Stress Index, Autism Parenting Stress Index, The Proactive Coping Inventory, Coping Strategies Inventory, Brief RCOPE), and a measure of acculturation to African American culture (The African American Acculturation Scale- Revised).  Participants completed the survey online and were provided with an electronic gift card for participation.

Results:  Hierarchical Discriminant Function Analysis (DFA) will be used to predict group membership using variables of interest from the coping and stress measures. Demographic information will allow us to control for differences due to socioeconomic status. The initial DFA will determine if there are significant differences between the three racial groups on stress and coping variables.  The DFA will also determine if the model reliably predicts membership to a given racial group based off of the predictor variables.  The DFA will be followed up with canonical functions to determine which variables account for the biggest differences among the three groups. 

Conclusions: We anticipate that of the three groups, Caucasian families will report experiencing the most stress, followed by highly acculturated African American families. In line with the literature suggesting that traditional African American families learn more coping styles because of additional exposure to stress, it is anticipated that less acculturated African American caregivers will report the most frequent use of a variety of coping behaviors.  This study will supply mental health providers with a window into understanding how racial minority caregivers’ perceptions and needs differ from that of racial majority populations, and how services may be best tailored to work within a caregivers’ cultural framework.