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Autism-specific Parenting Self-efficacy: An Examination Of The Role Of Parent-reported Intervention Involvement, Satisfaction With Intervention-related Training, And Caregiver Burden

Jennifer Kurzrok, Eileen McBride, Ruth B Grossman

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Parenting self-efficacy, described as the beliefs parents hold about their ability to successfully parent their children, has been shown to support parent and child well-being. Parents of children with autism spectrum disorder face disproportionately high levels of demand both as caregivers, and as partners in multiple, complex, intervention programs. This study examines the relationship between parents’ experiences with their child’s interventions—specifically their sense of involvement in treatment and satisfaction with intervention-related training—and their confidence in parenting a child with autism spectrum disorder, defined as autism-specific parenting self-efficacy. Participants ( N = 438, 93% mothers of children with autism spectrum disorder aged 2–17 years) completed our novel autism-specific parenting self-efficacy scale and rated their experience of involvement in their child’s interventions and satisfaction with intervention-related training across a range of common autism spectrum disorder–related treatments. Respondents also completed a caregiver burden scale. Findings indicate that parents who report greater involvement in their child’s interventions, and note greater satisfaction with intervention-related training, also report greater autism-specific parenting self-efficacy. Parents who report greater financial and social burden report lower autism-specific parenting self-efficacy. We propose that these results are important in creating intervention experiences that foster parental self-efficacy through involvement, productive training experiences, and addressing parental burden. Lay abstract What is already known about the topic? Parents of children with autism experience enormous challenges managing the complex needs of caring for their children. This includes coordinating multiple and complex therapies and acting as partners in treatment. Parenting self-efficacy is the confidence a person has in their ability to manage the tasks that are part of raising a child. People who have more confidence, or greater parenting self-efficacy, often feel less stressed and are more able to manage the demands of family life. This is particularly important for parents with children who have autism spectrum disorder, since they experience more parenting pressures. Although a lot is known about parenting self-efficacy in parents of neurotypical children, we do not know enough about how to help parents of children with autism spectrum disorder develop greater parenting self-efficacy. What this paper adds? This study shows that parents gain a greater sense of parenting self-efficacy when they feel more involved in their child’s therapy and are more satisfied with the training they receive as part of these therapies. We also find that feeling pressure related to being a caregiver of a child with autism spectrum disorder can undermine autism-specific parenting self-efficacy. However, parents’ sense of confidence was not limited by the severity of their child’s symptoms. Implications for practice, research, or policy The results suggest that there is an opportunity to help parents develop a greater sense of confidence in their ability to manage the complexities of raising a child with autism spectrum disorder by helping them feel more involved in treatment and by creating intervention-related training experiences that are more satisfying. Providers might also help by taking time to address the challenges and pressures that parents are experiencing, and helping them find ways to deal with these challenges. We suggest that there needs to be more research exploring how providers can best design interventions that support autism-specific parenting self-efficacy as a way of improving parental and child well-being.