Impact and implications of the relationship between parents’ psychosocial qualities and emotional/behavioral problems in children with autism spectrum disorder

Key Takeaway: Findings suggest that perceived social support predicts emotional/behavioral problems in children with ASD mainly through its influence on parental resilience and parental self-efficacy. As such, developing parents’ psychosocial characteristics through the provision of resources and support, targeted parent education, and relationship-building between parents and professionals is critical to promoting the development of children […]

Key Takeaway: Findings suggest that perceived social support predicts emotional/behavioral problems in children with ASD mainly through its influence on parental resilience and parental self-efficacy. As such, developing parents’ psychosocial characteristics through the provision of resources and support, targeted parent education, and relationship-building between parents and professionals is critical to promoting the development of children with ASD. —Ashley Parnell

In this study, Lu, Chen, He, Pand, & Zou examined mechanisms underlying the association between parents’ perceived social support and children’s emotional/behavioral problems, focusing specifically on the role played by parental resilience and parent self-efficacy.

“Emotional/behavioral problems are more common in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) than in typical children, with estimates of prevalence ranging from 35.8% to 94.3%.” Given the association between parental stress and children’s emotional/behavioral problems, parents of children with ASD need and benefit from increased perceived social support. Social support was defined as “material, emotional, and informational help a person experiences from his/her network as compared to the parents of typical children.”

Studies have shown that “parents with more social support have greater resilience, parenting self-efficacy, and can improve the emotional and behavior of their children with ASD.” However, studies investigating the relationships between these psychosocial characteristics are limited.

In this particular study, 289 parents of children with ASD completed a survey comprising the Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support, Resilience Scale, Parenting Sense of Competence Scale, and Difficulties Questionnaire. Results indicated that “parents’ perceived social support was significantly related to the emotional/behavior problems in children with ASD and that this relationship was mediated by a series of associations between parental resilience and parent self-efficacy, among which higher resilience is associated with higher self-efficacy.” Analysis indicates that perceived social support predicts emotional/behavioral problems in children with ASD mainly through its influence on parental resilience and parental self-efficacy.

In other words the association between perceived social support and emotional/behavioral problems is greater when parental resilience and parental self-efficacy are taken into account. Additionally, parental resilience and parents’ self-efficacy were found to play a chain-mediating role in the relationship between parents’ perceived social support and emotional/behavioral problems in children with ASD.

Findings indicate that “it is crucial to improve parents’ perceived social support, parental resilience, and parents’ self-efficacy to reduce emotional/behavioral problems in children with ASD.”

To best promote the development of children with ASD, we must: 

  1. Ensure accessibility to various types of support for parents.
  2. Help parents form relationships with professionals.
  3. Proactively attend to the education of parents.

Specifically, Das et al. states, “social organizations should establish social support networks and professional centers (e.g., at school, children’s centers, mobile clinics, etc.) to give parents different types of support (e.g., remote medical treatment, community health workers, specialist education teachers and psychologists).”1 Focus should also be placed on the education of parents, ensuring that parents are equipped with strategies, knowledge, and techniques that enable them to better address the needs of the children with ASD.

Summarized Article:

Lu, M., Chen, J., He, W., Pang, F., & Zou, Y. (2021). Association between perceived social support of parents and emotional/behavioral problems in children with ASD: A chain mediation model. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 113, 103933

Summary by: Ashley M. Parnell — Ashley strives to apply the MARIO Framework to build evidence-based learning environments that support student engagement, empowerment, and passion and is working with a team of educators to grow and share this framework with other educators.

Additional References

  1. Das, S., Das, B., Nath, K., Dutta, A., Bora, P., & Hazarika, M. (2017). Impact of stress, coping, social support, and resilience of families having children with autism: A North East India-based study. Asian journal of psychiatry, 28, 133-139.

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Join the MARIO Family

We are a dedicated group of learners that are constantly seeking to improve the lives of the children we care for. Whether you are a teacher, parent, assistant, or administrator, we give you free access to the most recent special education related research and practices available. Our twice monthly MARIO Memo summarizes and shares studies from peer-reviewed journals, while our learning letters provide insights from MARIO classrooms.

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