Parenting Stress and Theory of Mind Development in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: The Influence of Parental Reflective Functioning on this Relationship

Alessandra Twomey, Pace University

Abstract

This doctoral project examines the relationships between parental reflective functioning, theory of mind (ToM), and parenting stress in the ASD population. Study participants consisted of 21 parent-child dyads recruited from various schools and agencies in the New York City metropolitan area. Children's ages ranged from 4-12 years old. Measures included a Theory of Mind measure (ToM), adapted from Hale and Tager-Flusberg (2005), Parenting Stress Index- Third Edition, Long Form (PSI), and the Reflective Functioning Scale (RF Scale) as coded from the Adult Attachment Interview. It was hypothesized that there would be a positive relationship between ToM and parental reflective functioning. This hypothesis was not supported. Contrary to our hypothesis, parenting stress was positively correlated with parental reflective functioning when looking specifically at total parenting stress and parenting stress that derives from parent functioning. However, no relationships were found between parental reflective functioning and parenting stress deriving from the child's functioning or stress from external sources. No support was found for our hypothesis, which predicted an inverse relationship between parenting stress and ToM. Lastly, while we found a trend indicating that with higher levels of reflective functioning, the relationship between ToM and parenting stress weakens, this was not found at a statistically significant degree. Therefore, the results of this project illustrate that parents of children with ASDs who are more reflective are more likely to acknowledge the stress that they are experiencing, as compared to parents that display lower levels of reflectivity. In addition, this study illustrates that parenting stress is multidimensional and that different types of stressors may each have a differing impact depending upon the parent's reflective capacity. ^

Subject Area

Psychology, Developmental|Psychology, Clinical

Recommended Citation

Alessandra Twomey, "Parenting Stress and Theory of Mind Development in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: The Influence of Parental Reflective Functioning on this Relationship" (January 1, 2012). ETD Collection for Pace University. Paper AAI3528079.
http://digitalcommons.pace.edu/dissertations/AAI3528079

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