Date of Award

Fall 2021

Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Psychology, PhD

Program

School of Social Science, Politics, and Evaluation

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Tiffany Berry

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Jessica Borelli

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Patricia Smiley

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Yuqing Guo

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Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

© Copyright Gerin Gaskin, 2021. All rights reserved

Abstract

Relational Savoring in Mothers of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders: An Attachment-Based InterventionBy Gerin Elizabeth Gaskin Claremont Graduate University: 2021 Parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are at risk for higher depressive symptoms and lower subjective well-being compared to parents of neurotypical children or children with other developmental delays. Current treatment approaches to support these parents primarily focus on psychoeducation and skills training, but few focus on strengthening the connection between parent-child dyads. This project included two studies that examined the outcomes associated with a novel intervention, relational savoring, which identifies and amplifies moments of parent-child connection. In Study 1, n = 282 mothers were randomly assigned to an experimental group in which they completed an online intervention (relational savoring; RS) or a control intervention (personal savoring; PS) and provided responses to pre- and post-measures (positive and negative emotions, parenting satisfaction, and feelings of closeness). In Study 2, n = 63 mothers were randomly assigned to in-vivo versions of RS or PS conditions and were assessed at three timepoints: pre-intervention (T1), post-intervention (T2), and 4-week follow-up (T3). In addition to Study 1 measures, mothers completed two sets of questions that were coded for reflective functioning, and mothers’ behaviors from semi-structured play tasks at T1 and T3 were coded for maternal responsiveness and maternal affect. Predictions included that mothers in the RS group would show improved affect as indexed by increases in positive emotions and decreases in negative emotion, greater relational closeness, as indexed by parenting satisfaction and feelings of closeness (Studies 1 and 2); more secure attachment-related behaviors, indexed by RF, maternal responsiveness and affect (Study 2); and that intervention effects would be stronger for parents experiencing greater stress (Study 1). Study 1 demonstrated that both groups experienced decreases in negative emotions, but PS participants significantly decreased in positive emotions. Study 2 demonstrated that both groups exhibited improved affect and maternal responsiveness. No other predicted effects were observed. Overall, there were no specific advantages for the RS mothers, but the decreases in negative emotions across both studies suggest that PS and RS both may be beneficial for mothers of children with ASD. Findings have implications regarding how organizations can support this growing population and the importance of interventions based in developmental theory and research.

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