Autism Coping

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J Autism Dev Disord (2010) 40:1485–1494 DOI 10.1007/s10803-010-1001-3

ORIGINAL PAPER

Sense of Coherence and Coping with Stress Among Mothers and Fathers of Children with Autism Ewa Pisula • Zuzanna Kossakowska

Published online: 2 April 2010 Ó Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Abstract The purpose of the study was to compare the level of sense of coherence (SOC) in parents of children with autism and in parents of typically developing children, and to examine the association between SOC level and coping strategies. Two questionnaires were used: Sense of Coherence Scale (SOC-29) and Ways of Coping Questionnaire. Parents of children with autism had a lower level of the total SOC, meaningfulness, and manageability compared with controls, and used escape-avoidance coping more often. No differences in SOC level were found between mothers and fathers. In parents of children with autism the SOC level was positively associated with seeking social support and self-controlling, and negatively with accepting responsibility and positive reappraisal. Keywords Autism Á Coping Á Parents Á Sense of coherence

Introduction Parenting a child with autism poses a number of difficult challenges. Research results show that parents of these children experience a significant amount of stress (e.g., Abbeduto et al. 2004; Duarte et al. 2005; Konstantareas and Papageorggiou 2006; Montes and Halterman 2007). They experience more stress not only compared with parents of typically developing children, but also compared with parents of children with other developmental dis´ abilities (e.g., Baker-Ericzen et al. 2005; Holroyd and E. Pisula (&) Á Z. Kossakowska Faculty of Psychology, University of Warsaw, Stawki Str. 5/7, 00-183 Warsaw, Poland e-mail: ewa.pisula@psych.uw.edu.pl

McArthur 1976; Pisula 2007; Schieve et al. 2007; Yamada et al. 2007). The main burdens experienced by parents of children with autism include fears for their children’s future prompted by the fact that this disorder significantly reduces their chances of independence; disapproval for the child’s behavior demonstrated by others, often family members, and very limited social support (Sharpley et al. 1997). Other sources of stress include difficulties in communicating with the child (Goin-Kochel and Myers 2005) and behavioral problems seen in most children with autism (Bishop et al. 2007; Hastings 2003; Herring et al. 2006; Tomanik et al. 2004). Parents are also hampered by insufficient access to professional help (Sakaguchi and Beppu 2007), which means that they are usually responsible for coordinating, advocating for, and taking the decisions about treatment (Wachtel and Carter 2008). Anotovsky’s (1987) concept of sense of coherence (SOC) may prove to be a useful tool for analyzing the situation of parents of children with autism. SOC is defined as ‘‘a global orientation that expresses the extent to which one has a pervasive, enduring though dynamic feeling of confidence that (a) the stimuli deriving from one’s internal and external environments in the course of living and structured, predictable, and explicable (comprehensibility); (b) the resources are available to one to meet the demands posed by these stimuli (manageability); (c) these demands are challenges worthy of investment and engagement (meaningfulness)’’ (Antonovsky 1987, p. 19). SOC is closely associated with individual’s health, psychological well-being, psychological distress and psychiatric symptomatology (e.g., Antonovsky 1998; Olsson et al. 2008; Pallant and Lae 2002). People with strong SOC perceive the world as predictable, manageable and meaningful, and view stressors as an important challenge worth

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J Autism Dev Disord (2010) 40:1485–1494

facing. They tend to be very flexible, and thereby able to find appropriate resources to overcome a situation (Antonovsky 1992). Compared to people with weak SOC, they are cognitively and emotionally better equipped to grasp and identify the...
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