Research has consistently shown that parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are more likely to report chronic stress and symptoms of psychopathology when compared to parents of typically developing children and children with other psychological or physical conditions. Certain individual characteristics might either put parents at risk or allow them to cope more effectively under the strenuous conditions of raising children with neurodevelopmental conditions. Previous research has suggested that higher levels of intolerance of uncertainty and certain coping styles are associated with higher parental levels of anxiety and depression. The aim of this study is to characterize the way in which intolerance of uncertainty and coping (avoidant and problem-focused coping) predict mental health and psychological wellbeing in parents of children with ASD. Only mothers participated in this study. Fifty mothers (Mage = 44.28 years, SDage = 6.58) of children with ASD completed questionnaires assessing anxiety and depression, psychological wellbeing, intolerance of uncertainty, and avoidant and problem-focused coping. The results from this study provide preliminary evidence that higher use of problem-focused coping but not avoidant coping and intolerance of uncertainty predicts psychological wellbeing. Furthermore, our observation of greater intolerance of uncertainty and higher use of avoidant coping predicting anxiety and depression supports previous research. The findings from this study have implications for the development of intervention programs to help improve the mental health and psychological wellbeing of parents.
Lay Summary: This research studied the factors that impact the mental health of parents of children on the autism spectrum. We found that mothers, who are not comfortable with uncertainty, use more avoidant coping, and less problem-focused coping have poorer mental health. Identifying these factors is a crucial first step in developing intervention programs to help improve the mental health of parents. Autism Res 2020, 13: 1797–1801.
- intolerance of uncertainty
- psychological wellbeing