The objective of this thesis was to investigate psychological wellbeing in parents of young children recently diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Evidence to support poorer mental health in parents of children with ASD compared to parents of typically developing children and other developmental disorders is well established. However, much of the literature pertains to parents of children of varied age and developmental stage, with limited understanding of parent psychological wellbeing in the time following diagnosis of the young child. Understanding factors that may predict parent psychological wellbeing at this time is of particular importance, not only for the wellbeing of the parent themselves, but also for the wellbeing of the family unit, and to ensure best opportunities for the young diagnosed child to reach their developmental potential. This research followed a cohort of parents of young children from around the time they were diagnosed with ASD prospectively to 12-month follow-up. Key parent factors that emerged as stable in the prediction of parent psychological wellbeing included: 1) parenting self-efficacy and distract/disengage coping style predictive of poorer parent psychological wellbeing, and 2) reframe coping predictive of positive parent psychological wellbeing. Furthermore, child ASD symptomatology and behavioural difficulties did not present as unique predictors of parent psychological wellbeing beyond other parent factors. These findings have important implications for furthering understanding of the provision of support for parents and families with children with ASD around the time of diagnosis. In particular, considering the timeliness of support for those parents in greatest need may provide targeted opportunities for preventing further deterioration of parent psychological wellbeing
Submission note: A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Clinical Psychology [to the] School of Psychology and Public Health, College of Science, Health and Engineering, La Trobe University, Victoria.
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