Parents' Need-related Experiences and Behaviors When Raising a Child With Autism Spectrum Disorder

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Purpose:Research suggests that parenting a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) brings about major challenges to parents' own psychological resources. Considered through the lens of Self-Determination Theory (Ryan & Deci, 2017), parents rearing a child with ASD particularly face challenges to their psychological needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness. In turn, these challenges potentially jeopardize parents' capacity to attune to their child. This qualitative study aims to advance insight into (the interplay between) parents' experiences and parenting behaviors when raising a child with ASD, thereby using SDT as a framework to understand how these experiences and behaviors relate to the psychological needs for autonomy, relatedness and competence.Design and Methods:Fifteen parents of children with ASD, aged 6 to 17, participated in an interview concerning their behaviors and experiences in raisin their child with ASD.Results:Four sets of parental behaviors and five sets of parental experiences were identified, with the majority being relevant to the psychological needs postulated by SDT.Conclusions:The findings of this study provide (1) a deeper understanding of the threats and opportunities for the well-being of parents of children with ASD, (2) an in-depth insight into how these parents adjust their parenting behaviors to their child, and (3) an understanding of how parents' need-related experiences and parenting behaviors are dynamically intertwined.Practical Implications:By structuring how parents perceive threats and opportunities when raising a child with ASD within the SDT-framework, important targets for parent-support are identified.Highlights:This study qualitatively examines parents' experiences and parenting behaviors when raising a child with ASD.Most identified experiences and behaviors related to the basic psychological needs.Both threats and opportunities for parents' well-being are identified.The study offers insight into how these parents adjust their parenting behaviors.Parents' need-related experiences and behaviors are dynamically intertwined.

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