High depression symptoms and burnout levels among parents of children with autism spectrum disorders: a multi-center, cross-sectional, case-control study
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The diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in a child affects family processes, increases parenting stress and marital conflicts, and may lead to parental psychopathology. It may also affect the prognosis for their children. The aim of this study is to determine depression and burnout levels as well as their predictors among parents of children with ASD compared with those of healthy children. We also sought to evaluate rate of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) interventions among parents and explore the associations of this phenomenon in an exploratory fashion. 145 children with ASD and 127 control children were enrolled along with their mothers and fathers. Beck Depression Inventory and Maslach Burnout Inventory were used to evaluate parents' depression symptoms and burnout levels. Symptoms of children with ASDs were evaluated according to the Childhood Autism Rating Scale by the clinicians. Family, child and CAM variables were screened by means of a sociodemographic data form. Descriptive, bivariate and correlation analyses were used in statistical evaluations. Predictors of burnout were evaluated with multiple regression analysis. Burnout and depression levels among parents of children with ASD were significantly elevated compared to controls. Burnout levels of mothers were significantly elevated compared to fathers while depression scores of fathers were significantly elevated compared to mothers. Maternal burnout was significantly predicted by presence of functional speech in child while paternal burnout was significantly predicted by paternal vocation. Maternal depression was associated with paternal depression, lack of speech in child and attendance of child to special education services. Paternal depression was associated with autistic symptom severity and maternal depression. More than half the parents sought CAM interventions. Education level did not affect search for CAM interventions while both maternal and paternal psychopathology and presence of epilepsy among children increased use of CAM methods. Psychological support should be provided to both mothers and fathers of a child receiving a diagnosis of ASD. Addressing parents' burnout and stress levels and facilitating their negotiation of knowledge on etiology and treatments for ASD may be beneficial for the family unit as a whole.