How Do Women Who Identify on the Spectrum Mother Children Who Are Also on the Spectrum?

May 10, 2021

New Study Says They Perform at the Same Level as Neurotypical Mothers

Little is known about parents who have autism. Since autism rates continue to climb and individuals on the spectrum are more likely to have children with the disorder, parents with autism will become more commonplace in the future. Research examining the parenting skills of special needs adults is lacking and it is practically non-existent for parents on the spectrum who are also raising a child with autism. However, a new study published in Autism in Adulthood has set out to examine this barely researched issue. This study involved comparing family outcomes and parent well-being levels between mothers who identify as having autism and mothers that do not have the disorder. To conduct this research, the study’s authors matched 20 mothers who identify on the spectrum to 20 neurotypical mothers. Upon enrollment of the study, the mothers filled out several questionnaires that measured different aspects of their child’s and family’s functioning. These aspects included: child externalizing behaviors, child social communication, child adaptive functioning, family income, and child and maternal age. After processing the data, the research team came to an unexpected conclusion. They found no statistical differences in achievement outcomes between the two groups of mothers. The only small effect recognized suggested that mothers who identify as having autism develop stronger support networks. It should be noted that the study looked at mothers who identify as having autism and not diagnosed with autism.  This  could possibly indicate higher functioning levels for the group that identifies autistic rather than diagnosed with the actual disorder and skew the results of this study.  Sadly, the research concluded by  showing that both sets of mothers reported equally high levels of parenting stress. In the future, the study’s authors hope that more exploration will be made in this very under-researched area. 

Original Study

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