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An Exploratory Study of Autism Traits and Parenting


The study examined the association between autism traits and parenting when raising a typically developing (TD) child, and differences in parenting needs between parents with high and low traits. Fifty-eight parents with a blood relative with Autism (who happened to be an offspring with ASD in all cases) and a TD child completed the Autism Quotient, demographic and psychological information, as well as reporting on Parenting Sense of Competence, the Parent–Child Relationship, and Parenting Needs. Autism traits did not uniquely contribute to parenting self-esteem, but were associated with parenting difficulties for their TD child, and some aspects of this parent–child relationship. Parents with high autism traits reported more parenting difficulties than parents with low traits. The study identified specific aspects of parenting needing support to assist parents with high autism traits prosper in their parenting role.

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We would like to acknowledge the parents who participated in this study, and our funder, the William and Vera Houston Memorial Trust. CD and AR conceived of the study and study design.

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CD oversaw its execution carried out by NK and LP. NK developed the Parenting Difficulties Questionnaire (PDQ) together with CD and LP. All authors were involved in data analyses and interpretation of results. CD and AR drafted the manuscript together with NK, and all authors provided critical comment on the draft and editing of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Cheryl Dissanayake.

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Appendix: Parenting Needs Questionnaire

Appendix: Parenting Needs Questionnaire

Thinking of your interactions with your oldest child without a disability, please indicate how easy or difficult you find each of the following:

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Dissanayake, C., Richdale, A., Kolivas, N. et al. An Exploratory Study of Autism Traits and Parenting. J Autism Dev Disord 50, 2593–2606 (2020).

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  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Parent–child relationship
  • Autism traits
  • Parenting sense of competence
  • Parenting difficulties
  • Autism Quotient