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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Toddler Attachment Security and Parenting Stress in Families with Autism Spectrum Disorder
by Whitlock, Jennie Christine, Ph.D., The George Washington University, 2021, 193; 28157795
Abstract (Summary)

The current study investigates the relationships between mother-toddler attachment security, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), sociodemographic risk, and parenting stress utilizing the Fragile Families and Child Well-Being Study (FFCW) longitudinal data set, a nationally representative sample of 4,898 unmarried births. The FFCW oversampled non-marital births from urban, low-income, minority individuals, and the current study utilizes self-report data from mothers during Waves 1, 3, and 6. Sociodemographic risk (Gedaly & Leerkes, 2016) is defined as the potential for increased negative impacts of maternal age at birth, maternal education level, maternal household income, and maternal race on child development due to genetic and/or societal impacts. Data on these variables are collected at Wave 1 per mother report. Mother-toddler attachment security was assessed at Wave 3 using the Toddler Attachment Sort-39 (TAS-39; Bimler & Kirkland, 2002) and parenting stress was evaluated during the same wave. Autism diagnosis in children was evaluated at Wave 6 per parent report. Children in the sample were more likely to be diagnosed with ASD if their mother earned greater than a high school education and identified as White. Results indicated that maternal race influenced both mother-toddler attachment security and the diagnosis of ASD in the sample. White mothers reported higher mother-toddler attachment security when compared to both Black and Hispanic mothers, and children of Black mothers were less likely to have a diagnosis of ASD when compared to children of White mothers. Additionally, toddlers with ASD were less secure at age 3 years when compared to their neurotypical peers. ASD, Black maternal race, and Hispanic maternal race predicted a decrease in mother-toddler attachment security, and both higher maternal education and maternal household income predicted an increase in mother-toddler attachment security. Although mothers of children with ASD reported higher levels of stress when compared to mothers of neurotypical children, parenting stress was not found to moderate the relationship between ASD and mother-toddler attachment security. Parenting stress did, however, negatively impact attachment security. The results of this study provide insight into the unique challenges faced by families with ASD during critical periods of child development and how race may correlate with both the diagnosis of ASD and mother-toddler attachment security. Multicultural considerations at diagnosis and neurodiversity as well as recommendations for family-centered interventions are discussed.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Lanthier, Richard P.
Commitee: Frey, Jennifer R., Tuckwiller, Elizabeth D.
School: The George Washington University
Department: Counseling
School Location: United States -- District of Columbia
Source: DAI-A 82/5(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Developmental psychology, Counseling Psychology, Disability studies, Ethnic studies, Multicultural Education, Womens studies, Black studies, Individual & family studies
Keywords: Attachment security , Autism Spectrum Disorder, Fragile families, Parenting stress, Sociodemographic risk, Mother-toddler attachment, Maternal education, Household income, Low-income families, Black mothers, Child development
Publication Number: 28157795
ISBN: 9798698541059
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