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Date of Award

2002

Document Type

Dissertation - Pacific Access Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)

Department

Educational and Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Judith Hoorn

First Committee Member

Linda Webster

Second Committee Member

Albert Valnceia

Third Committee Member

Jean Gonsier-Gerdin

Abstract

Intervention programs for parents with children with autism seek to increase their knowledge of autism and decrease their levels of parenting stress. Prior research has not addressed this relationship. The present research had as its main focus the relationships between levels of stress of mothers of children with autism and maternal knowledge of autism, the age of the child, and the functioning level of the child. The level of maternal stress was assessed using the Parental Stress Instrument (PSI). Maternal knowledge of autism was assessed by the Parental Knowledge Index (PKI) developed by the investigator. A demographic questionnaire was used to obtain information on factors such as the functioning level of the child as well as the age of the mother, the age of child with autism, the date of diagnosis, the presence of other children at home, and years of parental education related to autism. Participants included 40 mothers of young children (1–8 years of age) from diverse SES and ethnic backgrounds. The mothers attended meetings at a family support center for autism. The analyses indicated (a) a significant negative correlation between the age of the child with autism and the severity of maternal stress; (b) a significant negative correlation between the level of maternal knowledge of autism and the functioning level of the child; (c) a non-significant correlation between the level of maternal stress and the functioning level of the child; (d) a non-significant correlation between the level of maternal knowledge of autism and the age of the child; and (e) a non-significant correlation between the level of maternal knowledge of autism and the level of maternal stress. The lack of a relationship between the level of maternal knowledge of autism and maternal stress is discussed in terms of possible inadequacies in the PSI, PKI, or both, or to limitations due to the limited number of participants. One implication based on the relationship between the child's age and the mother's level of stress is the possibility of designing educational programs with experiential sessions involving the mother and her child which attempt to equip them with adequate levels of “accelerated experiences.” A second implication is that it may be preferable to develop two separate intervention programs, one for parents of younger children and one for parents of older ones in order to address the unique needs of each group.

Pages

162

ISBN

9780493646404 , 049364640X

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