Skip to main content

Predicting Potentially Harmful Psychological and Physical Behaviours by Parental Caregivers toward Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Abstract

Mistreatment of dementia patients by spousal care providers is fairly common. Caregivers’ characteristics, particularly their psychosocial, physical and cognitive functioning, and coping behaviours, predict reports of elder mistreatment. Parental caregivers of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) however, despite the similarities they share with dementia caregivers, have not been studied in this context. A sample of N = 95 caregivers of children with ASD completed an online survey assessing: (a) psychosocial, physical and cognitive functioning, and (b) coping behaviours. Caregivers also: (c) rated the extent to which they used potentially harmful psychological (e.g., screamed at the child) and physical (e.g., slapped the child) behaviours to cope with caregiving challenges over the last 12 months. Rates of potentially harmful psychological and physical behaviours were extremely low. However, 95% of caregivers reported using at least one potentially harmful psychological behaviour at some point in the last 12 months, and almost 38% reported using at least one potentially harmful physical behaviour. Mediation analysis yielded an indirect effect of psychological distress on potentially harmful psychological behaviours through disengaged coping. In conclusion, rates of potentially harmful behaviours appear to be low in the context of caring for a child with ASD. Caregivers reporting increased psychological distress were more likely to use potentially harmful psychological behaviours, and this effect was partially mediated by greater use of disengaged coping.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1

References

  • Addington, J., Coldham, E. L., Jones, B., Ko, T., & Addington, D. (2003). The first episode of psychosis: The experience of relatives. ACTA Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 108, 285–289.

  • Baron, R. B., & Kenny, D. A. (1986). The moderator-mediator variable distinction in social psychological research: Conceptual, strategic, and statistical considerations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51(6), 1173–118.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Beach, S. R., Schulz, R., Williamson, G. M., Miller, S., Weiner, M. F., & Lance, C. E. (2005). Risk factors for potentially harmful informal caregiver behaviour. Journal of the American Geriatric Society, 53(2), 255–261.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Brand, C., Barry, L., & Gallagher, S. (2014). Social support mediates the association between benefit finding and quality of life in caregivers. Journal of Health Psychology, 6, 1–11.

  • Broadbent, D. E., Cooper, P. F., FitzGerald, P., & Parkes, K. R. (1982). The Cognitive Failures Questionnaire (CFQ) and its correlates. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 21, 1–16.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Brunes, D., Pillemer, K., Caccamise, P. L., Mason, A., Henderson, C. R., & Berman, J., et al. (2015). Prevalence of and risk factors for elder abuse and neglect in the community: A population-based study. American Geriatrics Society, 53(2), 255–261.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cantwell, J., Muldoon, O. T., & Gallagher, S. (2014). Social support and mastery influence the association between stress and poor physical health in parents caring for children with developmental disabilities. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 35, 2215–2223.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Cheng, S. T., Nam, I., & Kwok, T. (2013). Caregiver forgiveness is associated with less burden and potentially harmful behaviours. Aging and Mental Health, 17(8), 930–934.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Cooper, C., Selwood, A., Blanchard, M., Walker, Z., Blizard, R., & Livingston, G. (2010). The determinants of family carers’ abusive behaviour to people with dementia: Results of the CARD study. Journal of Affective Disorders, 121, 136–142.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Crespo, M., & Fernández-Lansa, V. (2014). Factors associated with anger and anger expression in caregivers of elderly relatives. Aging and Mental Health, 18(4), 454–462.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Cunningham, C. (2006). Understanding challenging behaviour in patients with dementia. Nursing Standard, 20(47), 42–45.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Dong, X. (2015). Elder abuse in Chinese populations: A global review. Journal of Elderly Abuse and Neglect, 27(3), 196–232.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Donnellan, W. J., Bennett, K. M., & Soulsby, L. (2016). Family close but friends closer: Exploring social support and resilience in older spousal dementia carers. Aging and Mental Health, 20, 1–7.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Downes, C., Fealy, G., Phelan, A., Donnelly, N.A., & Lafferty, A. (2013). Abuse of older people with dementia: A review. NCPOP, University College Dublin.

  • Fabiano, G. A., Pelham, W. E., Manos, M. J., Gnagy, E. M., Chronis, A. M., & Onyango, A. N., et al. (2004). An evaluation of three time-out procedures for children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Behavior Therapy, 35(3), 449–469.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Feast, A., Orrell, M., Charlesworth, G., Melunsky, N., Poland, F., & Moniz-Cook, E. (2016). Behavioural and psychological symptoms in dementia and the challenges for family carers: A systematic review. British Journal of Psychiatry, 208(5), 429–434.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Fletcher, P. C., Markoulakis, R., & Bryden, P. J. (2012). The costs of caring for a child with an autism spectrum disorder. Issues in Comprehensive Paediatric Nursing, 35(1), 45–69.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gallagher, S., Phillips, A. C., Oliver, C., & Carroll, D. (2008). Predictors of psychological morbidity in parents of children with intellectual disabilities. Journal of Paediatric Psychology, 33(10), 1129–1136.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gallagher, S., & Whiteley, J. (2012). Social support is associated with blood pressure responses in parents caring for children with developmental disabilities. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 33, 2099–2105.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Garcés, J., Carretero, S., Ródenas, F., & Alemán, C. (2010). A review of programs to alleviate the burden of informal caregivers of dependent persons. Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics, 50, 254–259.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Griffith, G. M., Hastings, R. P., & Petalas, M. A. (2014). Brief report: Fathers’ and mothers’ ratings of behavioural and emotional problems in siblings of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 44(5), 1230–1235.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Gudmundson, J. A., & Leerkes, E. M. (2012). Links between mothers’ coping styles, toddler reactivity, and sensitivity to toddler’s negative emotions. Infant Behaviour and Development, 35(1), 158–166.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hayes, A.F. (2012). PROCESS: A versatile computational tool for observed variable mediation, moderation, and conditional process modelling. www.afhayes.com/.

  • Joling, K. J., van Marwijk, H. W. J., Veldhuijzen, A. E., van der Horst, H. E., Scheltens, P., & Smit, F., et al. (2015). The two-year incidence of depression and anxiety disorders in spousal caregivers of persons with dementia: Who is at the greatest risk? American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 23(3), 293–303.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Kishimoto, Y., Terada, S., Takeda, N., Oshima, E., Honda, H., & Yoshida, H., et al. (2013). Abuse of people with cognitive impairment by family caregivers in Japan: A cross-sectional study. Psychiatry Research, 209, 699–704.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Lovell, B., Elliot, H., Che Sung Liu, C., & Wetherell, M. A. (2014). Memory failures for everyday tasks in caregivers of children with autism. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 35, 3057–3061.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Lovell, B., Moss, M., & Wetherell, M. A. (2012). The psychosocial, endocrine and immune consequences of caring for a child with autism or ADHD. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 37(4), 534–542.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Lovell, B., Moss, M., & Wetherell, M. A. (2016). Assessing the feasibility and efficacy of written benefit-finding for caregivers of children with autism: A pilot study. Journal of Family Studies, 22(1), 32–42.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lovell, B., & Wetherell, M. A. (2011). The caregiver control model of chronic stress: Endocrine and immune implications in elderly and non-elderly caregivers. Neuroscience and Biobehavioural Review, 35(6), 1342–1352.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lovell, B., & Wetherell, M. A. (2015). Child behaviour problems mediate the association between coping and perceived stress in caregivers of children with autism. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 20, 17–23.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Luong, J., Yoder, M. K., & Canham, D. (2009). Southeast Asian parents raising a child with autism: A qualitative investigation of coping styles. Journal of School Nursing, 25(3), 222–229.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Miller, L. S., Lewis, M. S., Williamson, G. M., Lance, C. E., Dooley, W. K., & Schulz, R., et al. (2006). Caregiver cognitive status and potentially harmful caregiver behaviour. Aging and Mental Health, 10(2), 125–133.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Perez-Rojo, G., Izal, M., Montorio, I., & Penhale, B. (2009). Risk factors of elder abuse in a community dwelling Spanish sample. Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics, 49, 17–21.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Reips, U. D. (2002). Standards for internet-based experimenting. Experimental Psychology, 49(4), 243–256.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Schat, A. C., Kelloway, E. K., & Desmarais, S. (2005). The physical health questionnaire (PHQ): Construct validation of a self-report scale of somatic symptoms. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 10(4), 363.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Shaffer, D. R., Dooley, K., & Williamson, G. L. (2007). Endorsement of proactively aggressive caregiving strategies moderates the relation between caregiver mental health and potentially harmful caregiving behaviour. Psychology and Aging, 22(3), 494–504.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Straus, M. A. (1979). Measuring intrafamily conflict and violence: The Conflict Tactics Scales. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 41, 75–88.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tobin, D. L., Holroyd, K. A., Reynolds, R. V., & Wigal, J. K. (1989). The hierarchical factor structure of the Coping Strategies Inventory. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 13(4), 343–361.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Urcuyo, K. R., Boyers, A. E., Carver, C. S., & Antoni, M. H. (2005). Finding benefit in breast cancer: Relations with personality, coping, and concurrent well-being. Psychology and Health, 20(2), 175–192.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Vitaliano, P. P., Echeverri, D., Yi, J., Phillips, P. E. M., Young, H., & Siegler, I. C. (2005). Psychophysiological mediators of caregiver stress and differential cognitive decline. Psychology and Aging, 20(3), 402–441.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Wigglesworth, A., Mosqueda, L., Mulnard, R., Liao, S., Gibbs, L., & Fitzgerald, W. (2010). Screening for abuse and neglect of people with dementia. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 58(3), 493–500.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wong, M. G., & Heriot, S. A. (2008). Parents of children with cystic fibrosis: How they hope, cope and despair. Child: Care, Health and Development, 34(3), 344–354.

    Google Scholar 

  • Yan, E., & Kwok, T. (2011). Abuse of older Chinese with dementia by family caregivers: An inquiry into the role of caregiver burden. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 26, 527–535.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Yan, E. (2014). Elder abuse and help-seeking behaviour in elderly Chinese. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 15, 1–26.

  • Zigmond, A. S., & Snaith, R. P. (1983). The hospital anxiety and depression scale. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 67(6), 361–370.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author Contributions

B.L.: designed and executed the study, completed the data analyses, and wrote the paper.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Brian Lovell.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of Interest

The author declares that he has no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study. Northumbria University, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences Ethics Committee, approved this study.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Lovell, B. Predicting Potentially Harmful Psychological and Physical Behaviours by Parental Caregivers toward Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. J Child Fam Stud 27, 2422–2429 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-018-1087-3

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-018-1087-3

Keywords

  • ASD
  • Coping
  • Parental caregiver, potentially harmful caregiving behaviours
  • Psychological distress