Thesis

The Influence Of Autism Severity On Maternal Perceptions Of Attachment

Autism can be described as a complex developmental disorder that includes impairments in social interaction and communication skills combined with rigid, repetitive behaviors. The disorder, also known as Autism Spectrum Disorder, covers a broad spectrum of symptoms, skills, and levels of disability or impairment. Autism can range in severity from a handicap that somewhat limits an otherwise normal life to a devastating disability. Children with autism often behave in a manner that suggests they do not develop strong relationships or attachment with their mothers or maternal care givers. The goal of this study was to determine the relationship between the severity of autism spectrum disorder and level of maternal attachment. Through an online self-administered survey, 29 mothers of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder responded to questions exploring key variables including the mother's perception of their child's attachment, the severity of their child's autism symptoms, and the level of the mother's maternal stress. In order to allow for quantitative analysis, standardized autism symptom cluster and maternal perception scales were utilized in the survey instrument. Correlation analyses demonstrated a negative correlation between autism symptom severity and a mother's perception of their child's attachment. As the child's autism symptom severity increased, the less secure attachment was reported by the mothers. Multiple regression analyses confirmed the Sensory-Relating Symptom Severity Cluster as a good predictor of a mother's perception of a less secure attachment with their child with autism. This study also demonstrated a statistically significant positive correlation between autism symptom severity and a mother's level of stress. Implications for this research in understanding maternal perceptions of attachment to their children with autism spectrum disorder were discussed. Certain limitations in the study also were identified such as a sample size, participant recruitment, and a lack of maternal coping mechanisms.

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