Mind-Mindedness in Mothers of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Background: Little is currently understood about the ways in which caregivers represent the internal mental states of their child with autism. Previous research has shown that being mind-minded can limit the experience of parenting stress in typically developing samples. The current study explored mind-mindedness in mothers of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and examined whether this related to the experience of parenting stress. Method: Mind-mindedness was coded from mothers’ descriptions of their child obtained from an online survey (N = 55). A subsample of these mothers also provided data on a non-ASD sibling (n = 27). We compared mothers’ mind-mindedness when describing their child with ASD and a non-ASD sibling. Results: Mothers predominantly described their child with ASD using mental and behavioral attributes. There were no overall differences in mothers’ use of mental state descriptors when referring to their child with ASD or a sibling, however, when considering the valence of descriptors, a significantly higher proportion of the mental attributes used to describe the child with ASD were negative. Associations between mind-mindedness and overall parenting stress failed to reach significance. Conclusions: Parenting a child with ASD does not appear to limit the parent’s ability to tune-in to their child’s mind. Maternal mind-mindedness scores were similar for the ASD and non-ASD sibling, although there were differences in the valence of representations. Being mind-minded did not protect against parenting stress, however we suggest that the high levels of stress experienced by our sample were beyond the protective reach of mind-mindedness.