The impact of child-related variables and caregiver-related variables in affecting the quality of life of caregivers of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
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The purpose of this study was to investigate the quality of life [QOL] (physical health and mental health) of caregivers of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) by examining various child-related and caregiver-related variables. Guided by Wallander and researchers' Risk and Resistance Model of Adjustment, and with current literature on caregiver adjustment and ASD, it was theorized that a combination of child and caregiver risk and resistance factors contributed to the caregiver's adjustment. Child-related factors included the child's basic skills, in terms of their cognitive and language skills, and the child's functional impairment, in term of adaptive functioning and social skills impairment. Caregiver-related factors included their psychosocial factors of stress, coping/appraisal and resources/support. These groups of child-related and caregiver-related risk and resistance factors were hypothesized to contribute to the caregiver's physical and mental health quality of life. One hundred of twenty-five participants completed a packet of surveys measuring demographics, child's ASD-related symptoms and functioning, as well as the caregiver's psychosocial functioning. Results showed significant relationships between the resources/support caregivers had and their mental health QOL ( r = .423), child's adaptive functioning ( r = -.274), perception of severity of the child's ASD symptoms ( r = -.235), and child's social skills impairment ( r = -.197). Caregiver's physical and mental health QOLs were examined using hierarchical regression analyses to investigate the amount of variance accounted for by these child and caregiver risk and resistance variables in predicting caregiver's QOLs. The child's basic skills (cognitive and language) were entered as the first group of the risk factors, the child's functional impairment (adaptive functioning and social skills impairment) as the second group of risk factors, and caregiver's psychosocial factors (stress, coping/appraisal and resources/support) as the third group of risk and resistance factors. Results indicated that none of these groups of risk and resistance factors were significantly contributing to caregiver's physical QOL. However, the child's functional impairment and caregiver-related psychosocial factors explained a significant amount of the variance for caregiver's mental health QOL (4.1% and 7.9% respectively). In a post hoc exploratory analysis investigating the types of resources/support in relations to the caregiver's QOL, exploratory hierarchical regression analyses were run to assess the contribution of the four types of resources (i.e., social, psychological, community, and financial) to caregiver's physical and mental QOLs. Results showed that the four types of resources in a group contributed to a significant amount of variance (11.0%) of caregiver's mental health QOL, with psychological, community and financial resources as individual significant predictors. As for physical health QOL, a non-significant amount of variance (3.4%) of the group of four resources explained the physical health QOL of caregivers. Strengths, limitations, clinical implications, and future research directions were discussed.