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Parenting and Psychosocial Development in Youth with and without Autism Spectrum Disorder, Cerebral Palsy, and Down Syndrome: a Cross-Disability Comparison

  • De Clercq, Lana1
  • Van der Kaap-Deeder, Jolene2
  • Dieleman, Lisa M.2
  • Soenens, Bart2
  • Prinzie, Peter3
  • De Pauw, Sarah S. W.1
  • 1 Ghent University, Department of Special Needs Education, Ghent, Belgium , Ghent (Belgium)
  • 2 Ghent University, Department of Developmental, Personality and Social Psychology, Ghent, Belgium , Ghent (Belgium)
  • 3 Erasmus University Rotterdam, Erasmus School of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Rotterdam, The Netherlands , Rotterdam (Netherlands)
Published Article
Advances in Neurodevelopmental Disorders
Springer International Publishing
Publication Date
May 03, 2019
DOI: 10.1007/s41252-019-00112-2
Springer Nature


ObjectivesParents play an important role in supporting their child’s social, behavioral, and emotional development. In the past decade, research on parenting in general populations increasingly relied on Self-Determination Theory (SDT) to better understand the association between parenting behaviors and child behavioral outcomes. In populations of children with a developmental disability, however, very little research has examined parenting behaviors from an SDT perspective. This study examines associations between parenting dimensions (responsiveness, autonomy support, psychological control) and children’s psychosocial outcomes (behavioral problems and psychosocial strengths) in and across four specific groups.MethodsParents of children between 7 and 15 years old with autism spectrum disorder (n = 95), cerebral palsy (n = 121), Down syndrome (n = 73), and without any known disability (n = 120) rated their parenting and their child’s behaviors.ResultsGroup comparisons indicated that mean levels of parenting did not vary widely across groups. By contrast, salient differences in behavioral presentations were observed, with parents of children with ASD reporting the most behavioral problems and the least psychosocial strengths. Multi-group structural equation models revealed similar, SDT-predicted relations between parenting dimensions and psychosocial development in each group. Three structural effects were found: whereas higher levels of psychologically controlling related to more externalizing problems, higher levels of responsive as well as autonomy-supportive parenting were associated with more psychosocial strengths.ConclusionThese results confirm that need-supportive parenting is related to beneficial outcomes and that need-thwarting socialization is related to maladaptive development in and across youth growing up with and without special needs.

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