Profiles of Parental Personal/Social Coping Resources during Children’s Early School Years: Implication for Psychological Distress
Objectives: This study examined (1) patterns of personal and social coping resources among parents of children diagnosed with ASD around the time of the children’s school entry; and (2) how these patterns were related to parenting stress and depression symptoms 2 years later.
Methods: Parents of 203 children from the Canadian Pathways in ASD study were included, based on availability of relevant data. At Time 1 (T1) data collection, shortly after school entry, children’s mean age was 6.6 years. Parents completed a demographic survey; the Ways of Coping Scales; a Family Functioning Questionnaire; a Social Support Survey; and the Child Behavior Checklist 1.5-5. In addition, within the subsequent 12 months, parents also completed the Measure of Processes of Care to reflect their experience of family-centered care in the school system. Two years later (T2), when the children’s mean age was 8.7 years, parents completed the Parenting Stress Index-Short Form and the Symptom Checklist-90-R,used to assess depression symptoms. Latent profile analysis was used to identify profiles of parents’ personal and social resources at T1, with socioeconomic (SES) cumulative risk indicators, utilization of coping strategies, family functioning, social support, perception of family-centered care, and child behavior demands entered into the model. Latent GOLD’s Step3 module (Vermunt & Magidson, 2013) was used to examine associations between T1 profile membership, and T2 parenting stress and parental depression.
Results: A four-profile model of parent resources showed the best fit and was also the most parsimonious (Fig. 1). Profile 1 (38%) was characterized by elevated active coping, average resources, and average child behavior demands. Profile 2 (28%) had the lowest SES risk and child behavior demands, average active coping, and elevated resources. Profile 3 (21%) displayed the lowest utilization of coping strategies, and low levels of both social resources and child behavior demands. Finally, Profile 4 (13%) had the lowest level of social resources, the highest levels of both SES risk and child behavior-related demands, and the highest level of disengaged coping strategies. At T2, profile membership significantly predicted both parenting stress and depression symptoms, p<.001. In particular, parents in Profile 2 reported significantly lower parenting stress and fewer depression symptoms compared to all other profiles, whereas parents in Profile 4 reported the highest symptoms.
Conclusions: Parents of children with ASD who reported low social resources, including poor family functioning, low social supports, and low levels of family-centered care, were at greater risk for experiencing later psychological distress. Professionals providing interventions to school-age children with ASD should endeavor to build collaborative relationships with families, as such relationships may help to ameliorate parenting stress and depression.