Depression and Anxiety among Parents with Autistic Children

By Rejani, Tg; Ting, Mary | Journal of Psychosocial Research, July-December 2015 | Go to article overview

Depression and Anxiety among Parents with Autistic Children


Rejani, Tg, Ting, Mary, Journal of Psychosocial Research


INTRODUCTION AND REVIEW

Autism is a developmental disability characterized by an impaired development in social interactions and communication (Quinn & Malone, 2000). Children with autism have difficulty in building relationships, shows destructive behaviors such as repetitive activities and self-abusive behaviors (Frith, 1993; Bromley, Hare, Davison, & Emerson, 2004). It is known that imbalances may occur in a family with the diagnosis of a disabled child (Seligman & Darling, 1997). According to Glidden & Jobe (2007), they found that levels of parental concern and worry for the parents with Abbeduto et al., 2004; special needs had more concern about their children than parents who did not have children with special needs. Parents of children with developmental delays are at risk for increased levels of psychological problems such as depression, anxiety, distress, guilt, poor social and marital adjustment, less satisfaction with life, poor parent child interaction and hopeless (Johnston, Goldberg, Morris, & Livenson, 2001; Murphy, Bruno, Abbeduto, Giles, Richmond, & Orsmond, 2004). They also experience high levels of stress which may require professional support (Boyd, 2002; Floyd & Gallagher, 1997), and may lead to feelings of fear, confusion, and loneliness (Smith, Oliver & Innocenti, 2001).

Autism is associated with burden and stress for parents (Howlin, Goode, Hutton, & Rutter, 2004; Tonge et al., 2006; Tonge, Einfeld, Gray, Brereton & Taffe, 2004). Parents with an autistic child often feel hopeless and blame themselves for the situation and will have stress, depression, and anxiety (Brereton, Tonge, & Einfeld, 2006). Parents caring an autistic child may contributes a higher overall incidence of parental stress, depression, anxiety and influence upon family functioning and marital relationships compared to parents of children with other intellectual, developmental or physical disabilities (Dunn, Burbine, Bowers, & Tantleff-Dunn, 2001; Tonge et al., 2006).

Mothers with autistic children showed significantly more depression and anxiety compared to fathers and social support was found to be the best predictor of parents' anxiety and depression, with decreased social support predicting increased psychological issues (Gray & Holden, 1992; Sharpley, Bitsika, and Efemidis, 1997). According to BakerEriczen, Brookman-Frazee & Stahmer (2005), mothers of children with autism showed higher depressive level than mothers of children with no disability. They also found that parents of children with autism had a higher depression than parents of children with mental retardation, Down syndrome and no disability. Hastings et al. (2005) found that positive correlations between mother ratings of child behavior and their anxiety, depression, and stress, and mothers' depression significantly predicted both paternal stress and positive perceptions.

Mothers with an autistic child are more likely to suffer from depression if compare with mothers has a children with intellectual difficulties without autism and mothers with typically developing children. Mother with an autistic child has a heritable vulnerability for depression (Bristol, Gallagher, Holt, 1993; Yirmiya & Shaked, 2005).

Many studies have found a greater number of stressors such as parental depression and anxiety, difficulties in daily management of the child, financial worries, and concerns over adequate educational and professional resources for the families with autistic children than for those children with other disabilities. All maternal groups, especially the mothers of the children with a diagnosed psychiatric illness, such as autism have stress, anxiety and depression (Hastings & Johnson, 2001; Sivberg, 2001; Tarakeshwar & Pargament, 2001).

In other countries, lot of researches have been conducted to examine depression and anxiety among parents with autistic children. But, only a few studies have been conducted in Malaysia. …

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