The Effects of Negative Perceptions Put on Parents of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

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Suejung Han

Mentor Department



Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that is becoming increasingly prevalent with a 123% growth during 2002 to 2010. Currently 1 in 68 children are identified as having autism (CDC, 2014). Individuals with autism often display various behaviors that the public might see as abnormal. People may misinterpret autism-related behavior for deviant behavior; consequently, parents of children with autism have reported feeling excluded, isolated, and stigmatized as bad parents because of their child's behaviors (Kinnear, Link, Ballan, & Fischback, 2016). Parents have expressed that the difficulty of raising a child with ASD was not recognized by others due to a lack of society's knowledge concerning autism (Woodgate, Ateah, & Secco, 2008). The current study aimed to investigate whether enhancing knowledge about ASD would reduce negative perceptions toward parents raising a child with autism. Vignettes of parent-child interactions were used in which the child displayed autism-related behaviors. A three-factor survey was developed to examine participants' (N = 79) perception of parental skill, emotional reaction, and sympathy toward parent (Austin, Zinke, & Davies, 2016). Findings revealed a significant association between enhanced ASD knowledge and positive perceptions of parents. Those who were provided with knowledge about autism reported parental skill more positively and showed less negative reactions toward parents. No difference was found between conditions on sympathy level toward parents. These results provide support that enhancing knowledge about ASD can decrease negative perceptions of parents of children with autism. Interventions of raising awareness and knowledge about ASD symptoms and possible parenting options for those symptoms may be useful in reducing negative public reactions to parents of children with ASD and thus their psychological distress.


Wilhelm-undergraduate, Cassata-undergraduate

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