Date of Award

2016

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Babb, Kim

Keywords

autism spectrum disorder, distress, emotion socialization, parenting

Rights

CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Abstract

The current study examined emotion socialization (ES) processes in mothers of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) using a quantitative and qualitative approach. The quantitative methodology was used to explore ES practices and the outcome of child problem behaviours, while taking into account maternal characteristics of the broad autism phenotype (BAP) and distress (stress, anxiety, depression and parenting stress). For the quantitative portion of the study, participants included 57 mothers of children age 6 to 16 years diagnosed with high functioning ASD. Mothers were separated into groups: without BAP status group and with BAP status group. The results revealed that ES practices alone did not predict child problem behaviours. However, with the inclusion of distress as a moderator, the relation between ES and problem behaviours revealed differences between the BAP groups. That is, in mothers without BAP status, when predicting child problem behaviours, stress moderated emotion coaching, supportive reactions, and positive expressiveness. Anxiety and parenting stress also moderated emotion coaching. In mothers with BAP status, stress and parenting stress moderated the relation between negative expressiveness and child problem behaviours. Within the qualitative framework of the study, a thematic analysis revealed that mothers of children with ASD use a number of ES approaches when their children are experiencing negative emotions. Themes consistent with ES practices within typically developing populations emerged, as well as additional themes that have not been adequately captured in the literature (e.g., socialization that often accommodates children’s behavioural and emotional challenges) and therefore may be more unique to mothers parenting children with ASD. Clinical implications and future directions are discussed.

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