The impact on Iranian mothers and fathers who have children with an autism spectrum disorder
To date, most research with families who have a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has been undertaken in English-speaking countries. Increased levels of stress allied with poorer health have been commonly reported for mothers, with less attention paid to fathers. This study aimed to document the personal impact on Iranian mothers and fathers and identify the correlates of increased stress and poorer emotional well-being.
In all, 103 parents (58 mothers and 45 fathers) from 74 families who had a child with ASD volunteered to take part in the study. Each participant completed through interview, standardised rating scales of parenting stress, emotional well-being and family functioning as well as rating their child's autistic symptoms, including stereotyped behaviours.
Mothers had significantly higher scores than fathers on measures of stress and emotional well-being. Although these variables were highly correlated, binary logistic regression identified that the poorer health was also associated with lower educational levels of the parents, more behavioural problems with the child and fewer autistic symptoms overall. A similar regression analysis of stress scores identified no gender differences but found that lower stress was associated with mothers and fathers who were joint caregivers and when the family lived with relatives.
Iranian parents experience broadly similar responses to parents in other countries, which suggests that the impact of ASD outweighs any cultural differences that might otherwise be present in parental responses to caring for children. In common with families internationally, these parents are likely to benefit from opportunities to become better informed about ASD and the management of their child at home allied with increased support from families and friends.