Curebie Attitudes and Coping in Mothers of Autistic Kids
Anyway, I've dug out the data again, and now I'm running it through SPSS to test various hypotheses.
Firstly, a basic description of my data:
- some demographic questions (where do you live, what's your ethnicity, what's your religion, what other parents does your child have, how old is your child, what's their diagnoses, when were they diagnosed, do you have any other kids, are they disabled, do you think you're on the spectrum, etc)
- if they suspected their child's diagnosis, why, how good their child's verbal skills were, whether their child had a lot of behavior problems, and what therapies their child had gotten and how helpful they were
- some qualitative questions about how they were affected by the child's diagnosis, how they thought the child perceived their own condition, how they wanted their child to perceive their condition, and what they thought caused autism
- Likert-scale questions about self-esteem (borrowed from some old study that I can't seem to find now)
- Likert-scale questions about parental stress (a reworded version of some questionnaire where every question started with 'I need' or 'my family needs')*, scaled so higher scores represent lower stress
- Likert-scale questions about parental autistic traits
- Likert-scale questions about the DSM-IV symptoms of depression
- Likert-scale questions about curebie/neurodiversity attitudes towards autism (this one was the only one not adapted from somewhere else)
If a scale is measuring a single underlying construct, then the items should be correlated with each other. The test for inter-item correlation in a scale is called 'Cronbach's alpha', and the higher this number is, the better the scale is.
I ran Cronbach's alpha on the 17 questions in this scale, and it spat out a value of .894 (the score ranges from 0-1, so this is very good). I noticed that it had excluded 10 cases based on them not having data for all the questions, so I removed one question ('my child's behavior makes sense to me') which I'd added partway through the study and therefore didn't have full data on. The next Cronbach's alpha was .802, and all 16 cases were included in that analysis.
Then I ran bivariate correlations to see if the questions were correlated with the summed score (with higher scores meaning neurodiversity attitudes, incidentally), and found the following for each question (* means p=<.005 and ** means p=<.001, reverse scored means that 'strongly disagree' counted higher than 'strongly agree'):
- I feel despair when I think of my child's future (reverse-scored) -- .875**
- If my child's autism is not cured, he/she will have to be institutionalized (reverse-scored) -- .560*
- I often think my child would be better off dead (reverse-scored) -- .612* (note: all parents chose between strongly disagree and neutral on this question and the next one, none agreed)
- I have seriously considered killing my child (reverse-scored) -- .468
- I don't think there is anything good about autism (reverse-scored) -- .408
- I would rather my child have leukemia than autism (reverse-scored) -- .562* (all parents chose 'disagree' or 'strongly disagree' on this question)
- I get very sad when I see a typically developing child who is the same age as my child (reverse-scored) -- .693**
- I think of my child as trapped inside autism (reverse-scored) -- .687**
- I often feel like I have lost my child (reverse-scored) -- .532*
- There is a conspiracy to keep parents from knowing the true cause and/or cure of autism (reverse-scored) -- .313
- I worry that my child hasn't got enough therapy at a young enough age (reverse-scored) -- .666**
- My child has a lot in common with me -- .619*
- Autism is not a big part of who my child is (reverse-scored) -- -.312
- Autism is not really a bad thing, it just means you are different from the norm -- .484
- I think of myself as a warrior fighting against autism on my child's behalf (reverse-scored) -- .575*
- I think of myself as a warrior fighting against society (for example, the school system) on behalf of my child (reverse-scored) -- .555* (note: I originally planned this to be positively scored, but I noticed that it correlated extremely strongly with 'war on autism')
However, the one question that actually showed a (non-significant) negative correlation, 'autism is not a big part of who my child is' (reverse-scored), was interesting. Although many neurodiversity autistic self-advocates (myself included) argue that 'autism is part of who we are, not a condition we have', it seems like most parents who see autism as a big part of their child do not have a positive view of the condition. This question correlated significantly with despair at the child's future, expecting the child to be institutionalized, feeling like they'd lost their child and being at war with autism. So it seems like 'person-first' advocates might actually have a point - some parents seem to view autism as an engulfing monster that has taken over their child.
I could switch that question to being positively scored, or else reword it as something like 'you can't separate my child's autism from his/her basic personality' or 'if my child's autism were cured, he/she would be a different person', which might better tap the neurodiverse sense of autism as part of identity. Ideas for further research!
Curebie/Neurodiversity and Parental Well-Being
(Note: The self-esteem scale had a Cronbach's alpha of .835, the parental coping scale had an alpha of .678, and the depression scale had an alpha of .834.)
I ran bivariate correlations between curebie/neurodiversity, depression, parental coping and self-esteem. The curebie/neurodiversity questionnaire was strongly negatively correlated with depression (-.603, p=.023), positively correlated with parental coping (.830, p<.001) and uncorrelated with self-esteem (.392, p=.148). Depression was also negatively correlated with self-esteem (-.694, p=.004), which is consistent with pretty much any study into depression and self-esteem. But neither depression nor self-esteem were correlated with parental coping.
Given that my depression question were grabbed from the DSM-IV, I was interested to see how many met criteria for a major depressive episode. The cut-off is 5 or more, including depressed mood and/or loss of interest (criteria 1 and 2). I decided to take agree or strongly agree as indicating presence of a symptom. (Note: Diagnosis-by-questionnaire is not an accepted clinical diagnosis, but it is commonly used in the literature to approximate a diagnosis.)
Based on this criteria, 4 parents were depressed and 10 weren't depressed (2 didn't answer all the depression questions and so were excluded). This means 29% were depressed.
Then I ran a T-test on neurodiversity/curebie, self-esteem and parental coping between depressed and non-depressed parents. Self-esteem scores were the only significant difference between the two groups, at (p=.013). This might be due to small sample sizes (4 is a very small number for statistical analyses).
* In retrospect, I shouldn't have reworded the questions, because even slight changes in wording can affect people's responses.