Advertisement

Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 43, Issue 9, pp 2090–2098 | Cite as

Gender Differences When Parenting Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Multilevel Modeling Approach

  • Leah JonesEmail author
  • Vasiliki Totsika
  • Richard P. Hastings
  • Michael A. Petalas
Original Paper

Abstract

Parenting a child with autism may differentially affect mothers and fathers. Existing studies of mother–father differences often ignore the interdependence of data within families. We investigated gender differences within-families using multilevel linear modeling. Mothers and fathers of children with autism (161 couples) reported on their own well-being, and their child’s functioning. Mothers reported higher levels of distress compared with fathers, and child behavior problems predicted psychological distress for both mothers and fathers. We found little evidence of child functioning variables affecting mothers and fathers differently. Gender differences in the impact of child autism on parents appear to be robust. More family systems research is required to fully understand these gender differences and the implications for family support.

Keywords

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Mothers Fathers Families Psychological well-being Multilevel linear modeling (MLM) 

Notes

Acknowledgments

The preparation of this manuscript was supported by grant SCS/09/11 from the National Institute for Social Care and Health Research (Wales) to Bangor University. The original research was supported by funding from the European Social Fund, the National Autistic Society, and Bangor University.

References

  1. Abbeduto, L., Seltzer, M. M., Shattuck, P., Krauss, M. W., Orsmond, G., & Murphy, M. M. (2004). Psychological well-being and coping in mothers of youths with autism, down syndrome, or fragile X syndrome. American Journal on Mental Retardation, 109(3), 237–254. doi: 10.1352/0895-8017(2004)109<237:PWACIM>2.0.CO;2.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed., text rev.). Washington, DC: Author.Google Scholar
  3. Bailey, A., Palferman, S., Heavey, L., & Le Couter, A. (1998). Autism: The phenotype in relatives. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 28(5), 369–392.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bayat, M. (2007). Evidence of resilience in families of children with autism. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 51, 702–714. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2788.2007.00960.x.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Beck, A., Daley, D., Hastings, R. P., & Stevenson, J. (2004). Mothers’ expressed emotion towards children with and without intellectual disabilities. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 48, 628–638. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2788.2003.00564.x.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bekker, M. H. J., & van Mens-Verhulst, J. (2007). Anxiety disorders: Sex differences in prevalence, degree, and background, but gender-neutral treatment. Gender Medicine, 4(B), 178–193.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Blacher, J., & McIntyre, L. L. (2006). Syndrome specificity and behavioural disorders in young adults with intellectual disability: Cultural differences in family impact. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 50(3), 184–198. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2788.2005.00768.x.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Dabrowska, A., & Pisula, E. (2010). Parenting stress and coping styles in mothers and fathers of pre-school children with autism and down syndrome. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 54(3), 266–280. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2788.2010.01258.x.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Davis, N. O., & Carter, A. S. (2008). Parenting stress in mothers and fathers of toddlers with autism spectrum disorders: Associations with child characteristics. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 38(7), 1278–1291. doi: 10.1007/s10803-007-0512-z.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dunn, M. E., Burbine, T., Bowers, C. A., & Tantleff-Dunn, S. (2001). Moderators of stress in parents of children with autism. Community Mental Health Journal, 37(1), 39–52. doi: 10.1023/A:1026592305436.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Eisenhower, A. S., Baker, B. L., & Blacher, J. (2005). Preschool children with intellectual disability: Syndrome specificity, behaviour problems, and maternal well-being. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 49(9), 657–671. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2788.2005.00699.x.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Enders, C. K., & Tofighi, D. (2007). Centering predictor variables in cross- sectional multilevel models: A new look at an old issue. Psychological Methods, 12(2), 121–138. doi: 10.1037/1082-989X.12.2.121.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Friedrich, W. N., Greenberg, M. T., & Crnic, K. (1983). A short-form of the questionnaire on resources and stress. American Journal of Mental Deficiency, 88(1), 41–48.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Glidden, L. M., & Floyd, F. J. (1997). Disaggregating parental depression and family stress in assessing families of children with developmental disabilities: A multisample analysis. American Journal on Mental Retardation, 102(3), 250–266. doi: 10.1352/0895-8017(1997)102<0250:DPDAFS>2.0.CO;2.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Goodman, R. (1997). The strengths and difficulties questionnaire: A research note. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines, 38(5), 581–586. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.1997.tb01545.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gray, D. E. (2003). Gender and coping: The parents of children with high functioning autism. Social Science and Medicine, 56(3), 631–642. doi: 10.1016/S0277-9536(02)00059-X.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Griffith, G. M., Hastings, R. P., Nash, S., & Hill, C. (2010). Using matched groups to explore child behavior problems and maternal well-being in children with Down syndrome and autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 40, 610–619.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hastings, R. P. (2003). Child behaviour problems and partner mental health as correlates of stress in mothers and fathers of children with autism. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 47, 231–237. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2788.2003.00485.x.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hastings, R. P., & Brown, T. (2002). Behavior problems of children with autism, parental self-efficacy, and mental health. American Journal on Mental Retardation, 107(3), 222–232. doi: 10.1352/0895-8017(2002)107<0222:BPOCWA>2.0.CO;2.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hastings, R. P., & Johnson, E. (2001). Stress in UK families conducting intensive home-based behavioral intervention for their young child with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 31(3), 327–336. doi: 10.1023/A:1010799320795.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hastings, R. P., Kovshoff, H., Ward, N. J., Espinosa, F. D., Brown, T., & Remington, B. (2005). Systems analysis of stress and positive perceptions in mothers and fathers of pre-school children with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 35(5), 635–644. doi: 10.1007/s10803-005-0007-8.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hastings, R. P., & Taunt, H. M. (2002). Positive perceptions in families of children with developmental disabilities. American Journal on Mental Retardation, 107(2), 116–127. doi: 10.1352/0895-8017(2002)107<0116:PPIFOC>2.0.CO;2.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Herring, S., Gray, K., Taffe, J., Tonge, B., Sweeney, D., & Einfeld, S. (2006). Behaviour and emotional problems in toddlers with pervasive developmental disorders and developmental delay: Associations with parental mental health and family functioning. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 50, 874–882. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2788.2006.00904.x.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Honey, E., Hastings, R. P., & McConachie, H. (2005). Use of the questionnaire on resources and stress (QRS-F) with parents of young children with autism. Autism, 9(3), 246–255. doi: 10.1177/1362361305053256.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Iizuka, C., Yamashita, Y., Nagamitsu, S., Yamashita, T., Araki, Y., Ohya, T., et al. (2010). Comparison of the strengths and difficulties questionnaire (SDQ) scores between children with high-functioning autism spectrum disorder (HFASD) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD). Brain & Development, 32(8), 609–612. doi: 10.1016/j.braindev.2009.09.009.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kayfitz, A. D., Gragg, M. N., & Orr, R. R. (2010). Positive experiences of mothers and fathers of children with autism. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 23(4), 337–343. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-3148.2009.00539.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Konstantareas, M. M., & Homatidis, S. (1992). Mothers and fathers self-report of involvement with autistic, mentally delayed, and normal-children. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 54(1), 153–164. doi: 10.2307/353283.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kraemer, H. C., & Blasey, C. M. (2004). Centring in regression analyses: A strategy to prevent errors in statistical inference. International Journal of Methods in Psychiatric Research, 13(3), 141–151. doi: 10.1002/mpr.170.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kuehner, C. (2003). Gender differences in unipolar depression: An update of epidemiological findings and possible explanations. Acta Psychiatra Scandinavia, 108(3), 163–174. doi: 10.1034/j.1600-0447.2003.00204.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Lecavalier, L. (2006). Behavioral and emotional problems in young people with pervasive developmental disorders: Relative prevalence, effects of subject characteristics, and empirical classification. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 36(8), 1101–1114. doi: 10.1007/s10803-006-0147-5.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lecavalier, L., Leone, S., & Wiltz, J. (2006). The impact of behaviour problems on caregiver stress in young people with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 50, 172–183. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2788.2005.00732.x.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Lustig, D. C. (2002). Family coping in families with a child with a disability. Education and Training in Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, 37(1), 14–22.Google Scholar
  33. MacDonald, E. E., Hastings, R. P., & Fitzsimons, E. (2010). Psychological acceptance mediates the impact of the behaviour problems of children with intellectual disability on fathers’ psychological adjustment. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 23(1), 27–37. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-3148.2009.00546.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. McLean, C. P., & Anderson, E. R. (2009). Brave men and timid women? A review of the gender differences in fear and anxiety. Clinical Psychology Review, 29(6), 496–505.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Micali, N., Chakrabarti, S., & Fombonne, E. (2004). The broad autism phenotype. Autism, 8(1), 21–37.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Moerbeek, M., van Breukelen, G. J. P., & Berger, M. P. (2003). A comparison between traditional methods and multilevel regression for the analysis of multicenter intervention studies. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, 56(4), 341–350. doi: 10.1016/S0895-4356(03)00007-6.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Moes, D., Koegel, R. L., Schreibman, L., & Loos, L. M. (1992). Stress profiles for mothers and fathers of children with autism. Psychological Reports, 71(3), 1272–1274. doi: 10.2466/PR0.71.8.1272-1274.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. Mori, K., Ujiie, T., Smith, A., & Howlin, P. (2009). Parental stress associated with caring for children with Asperger’s syndrome or autism. Pediatrics International, 51, 364–370. doi: 10.1111/j.1442-200X.2008.02728.x.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Olsson, M. B., & Hwang, C. P. (2001). Depression in mothers and fathers of children with intellectual disability. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 45(6), 535–543. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2788.2001.00372.x.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Olsson, M. B., & Hwang, P. C. (2003). Influence of macrostructure of society on the life situation of families with a child with intellectual disability: Sweden as an example. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 47(4–5), 328–341. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2788.2003.00494.x.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Osborne, L. A., & Reed, P. (2009). The relationship between parenting stress and behavior problems of children with autistic spectrum disorders. Exceptional Children, 76(1), 54–73.Google Scholar
  42. Petalas, M. A., Hastings, R. P., Nash, S., Hall, L. M., Joannidi, H., & Dowey, A. (2012). Psychological adjustment and sibling relationships in siblings of children with autism spectrum disorders: Environmental stressors and the broad autism phenotype. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 6, 546–555.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Phetrasuwan, S., & Miles, M. S. (2009). Parenting stress in mothers of children with autism spectrum disorders. Journal for Specialists in Pediatric Nursing, 14(3), 157–165.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Pit-ten Cate, I. M. (2003 unpublished). Family adjustment to disability and chronic illness in children. Unpublished Doctoral Thesis, University of Southhampton.Google Scholar
  45. Pottie, C. G., Cohen, J., & Ingram, K. M. (2009). Parenting a child with autism: Contextual factors associated with enhanced daily parental mood. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 34(4), 419–429. doi: 10.1093/jpepsy/jsn094.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Pottie, C. G., & Ingram, K. M. (2008). Daily stress, coping, and well-being in parents of children with autism: A multilevel modeling approach. Journal of Family Psychology, 22(6), 855–864. doi: 10.1037/a0013604.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Rimmerman, A., Turkel, L., & Crossman, R. (2003). Perception of child development, child-related stress and dyadic adjustment: Pair analysis of married couples of young children with developmental disabilities. Journal of Intellectual & Developmental Disability, 28(2), 188–195. doi: 10.1080/1366825031000147111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Rutter, M., Bailey, A., Lord, C., & Berument, S. K. (2003). Social communication questionnaire. Los Angeles, CA: Western Psychological Services.Google Scholar
  49. Rydebrandt, B. (1991). Defense strategies and anxiety in mothers of disabled-children. European Journal of Personality, 5(5), 367–377. doi: 10.1002/per.2410050504.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Schieve, L. A., Blumberg, S. J., Rice, C., Visser, S. N., & Boyle, C. (2007). The relationship between autism and parenting stress. Pediatrics, 119, S114–S121. doi: 10.1542/peds.2006-2089Q.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Seligman, M., & Darling, R. B. (1997). Ordinary families: Special children. New York, NY: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  52. Smith, L. E., Hong, J., Seltzer, M. M., Greenberg, J. S., Almeida, D. M., & Bishop, S. L. (2010). Daily experiences among mothers of adolescents and adults with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 40(2), 167–178. doi: 10.1007/s10803-009-0844-y.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Sparrow, S. S., Cicchetti, D. V., & Balla, D. A. (2005). Vineland II adaptive behaviour scales. A revision of the Vineland social maturity scale by Edgar A. Doll. Survey interview form. Circle Pines, MN: AGS Publishing.Google Scholar
  54. Sukhodolsky, D. G., Scahill, L., Gadow, K. D., Arnold, L. E., Aman, M. G., McDougle, C. J., et al. (2008). Parent-rated anxiety symptoms in children with pervasive developmental disorders: Frequency and association with core autism symptoms and cognitive functioning. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 36(1), 117–128. doi: 10.1007/s10802-007-9165-9.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Tehee, E., Honan, R., & Hevey, D. (2009). Factors contributing to stress in parents of individuals with autistic spectrum disorders. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 22(1), 34–42. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-3148.2008.00437.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Tobing, L. E., & Glenwick, D. S. (2002). Relation of the childhood autism rating scale-parent version to diagnosis, stress, and age. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 23(3), 211–223. doi: 10.1016/S0891-4222(02)00099-9.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Totsika, V., Hastings, R. P., Emerson, E., Berridge, D. M., & Lancaster, G. A. (2011a). Behavior problems at 5 years of age and maternal mental health in autism and intellectual disability. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 39(8), 1137–1147. doi: 10.1007/s10802-011-9534-2.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Totsika, V., Hastings, R. P., Emerson, E., Lancaster, G. A., & Berridge, D. M. (2011b). A population-based investigation of behavioural and emotional problems and maternal mental health: Associations with autism spectrum disorder and intellectual disability. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 52(1), 91–99. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2010.02295.x.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Van de Velde, S., Bracke, P., & Levecque, K. (2010). Gender differences in depression in 23 European countries. Cross-national variation in the gender gap in depression. Social Science and Medicine, 71(2), 305–313.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. World Health Organization. (2008). ICD-10: International statistical classification of diseases and related health problems (10th Rev. ed.). New York, NY: Author.Google Scholar
  61. Zigmond, A. S., & Snaith, R. P. (1983). The hospital anxiety and depression scale. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 67(6), 361–370. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0447.1983.tb09716.x.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Leah Jones
    • 1
    Email author
  • Vasiliki Totsika
    • 1
  • Richard P. Hastings
    • 1
  • Michael A. Petalas
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.School of PsychologyBangor University, Adeilad Brigantia, Ffordd PenralltBangor, GwyneddWales, UK
  2. 2.Mental Health CareDenbighshireWales, UK

Personalised recommendations