AbstractsSocial Work

Stigma internalized by parents of children with autism and coping mechanisms to combat its effects

by Deidre Sudderth

Institution: California State University – Sacramento
Department: Social Work
Degree: MSW
Year: 2015
Keywords: Autism; Stigma internalized; Internalization; Parental perception; Children with autism
Record ID: 2060698
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10211.3/139502


Autism is a disorder that impairs a child???s communication and social interaction, and causes the development of stereotypic or repetitive behaviors or interests. As autism increases in prevalence, it becomes significantly more important to focus research on how this disorder impacts children and their families. As parents play a key role in a child???s development, it is necessary to investigate the unique challenges faced by parents of children with autism, and of additional concern is whether the parents face stigmatization as a result of bearing and raising their child with autism. This study primarily explored the experience of parenting a child with autism, and specifically investigated the internalization of stigma on families because of their child's diagnosis. Secondly, the author identified recent and different coping styles that have been helpful to families with children with autism compared to studies completed more than 10 years ago. Additionally, theory has been applied to the particular experiences of the participants in this study. Next, integration of qualitative data from participant surveys into a broad conceptualization of the manifestation of stigma in parents of children with autism was completed. Finally, the author provided recommendations for professionals working with the population of autism, and acted as an impetus for future research. Autism certainly is stigmatized amongst parents and families of children with autism. One of the main findings of this study was the variation in the perceptions of stigma among parents. Parents were noted to feel depressed, misunderstood, guilty, and even isolated. Additionally, families including children with and without autism specified that the siblings of a child with autism were helpful, kind, embarrassed, and sometimes neglectful. While some parents (47%) felt stigmatized by their child's condition and experienced negative emotionality because of it, 52% contrastingly denied internalizing stigma. However, parents who have utilized coping strategies such as meditation, research on autism, and prayer experienced less negative emotions. Overall, parenting a child with autism or being associated with a child with autism, as a family member, can lead to ???associated stigma??? which causes negative emotionality if internalized.