Understanding Social Support for Parents of Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders
Robinson, Suzanne Marie
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Parenting an individual with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is uniquely challenging and enhancing resources like social support is important for promoting well-being. Within the field of ASD, social support has generally been measured broadly and studies have focused on a single facet of social support rather than incorporating different components, such as received and perceived support. It is unclear how received and perceived support uniquely relate to parent well-being. We also know very little about the factors that lead to higher levels of perceived social support or the potential reciprocal relationship social support has with other factors for parents of children with ASD. With a sample of 249 caregivers of individuals with ASD, this study assessed the strength of association between received and perceived social support, and compared the stress-buffering effects of both support types. This study also assessed the reciprocal relationships between perceived social support and parent perceived stress, self-efficacy, and child behaviour problems across a one-year period using three time points. Results showed perceived and received support were related but distinct concepts. When examined together in a single model, perceived support was significantly associated with stress and received support was not. Neither social support measure significantly moderated the association between stressors and stress. The longitudinal analyses showed less evidence for reciprocal relationships than hypothesized. There was some evidence for a reciprocal relationship between self-efficacy and perceived social support, but significant bi-directional associations were not observed between perceived social support and child behaviour problems or between perceived support and stress. Baseline perceived social support significantly predicted 6-month child behaviour and 6-month stress, but neither of those significantly predicted social support. This study adds to our understanding of social support and clarifies how perceived social support relates to other family factors longitudinally.