Empowerment and Parent Gain as Mediators and Moderators of Distress in Mothers of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders
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- Weiss, J.A., MacMullin, J.A. & Lunsky, Y. J Child Fam Stud (2015) 24: 2038. doi:10.1007/s10826-014-0004-7
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Mothers of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) experience considerable amounts of distress and experiences of crisis. The Family Adjustment and Adaptation Response model provides a theory for understanding the experience of distress and crisis in families, and the purpose of the present study was to examine experiences of distress in mothers of individuals with ASD using this framework. We specifically investigated how parent empowerment and positive gain were related to their experiences of distress, whether as mediators or as moderators of child aggression. Participants included 156 mothers of children with ASD ranging in age from 4 to 21 years. Mothers completed an online survey of demographics, problem behaviors, family empowerment, positive gain, and distress. We conducted path analyses of multiple mediation and moderation. Results indicated that greater child problem behavior was related to less parent empowerment, which was related to greater maternal distress, supporting empowerment as a partial mediator. At the same time, greater child aggression was not related to maternal distress in mothers who report high rates of positive gain, suggesting that parent gain functions as a moderator. The implications for how and when clinicians intervene with families of children with ASD are discussed.