The present study was conducted in conjunction with a randomised controlled trial (RCT) of the Stepping Stones Triple P parenting program for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The RCT showed that the intervention had a significant treatment effect for the ASD population; indeed, it reduced child behaviour problems and dysfunctional parenting styles. The results of this trial are detailed elsewhere (Whittingham, Sofronoff, Sheffield and Sanders, 2009). The present study is exploratory, and aimed to investigate the impact of parental attributions on treatment outcome, in the context of participation in the Stepping Stones Triple P program.
As previously described, this study was conducted in tandem with a RCT of Stepping Stones Triple P for 59 families of children with ASD. The current study is exploratory, and evaluated whether Stepping Stones Triple P significant impacted parents’ attributions. In addition, the current research evaluated whether parents’ attributions at intake predicted change in child behaviour and parenting styles post-assessment.
The findings are described below:-
The results demonstrated that Stepping Stones Triple P shifted parents’ attributions, such that post-intervention, parents were significantly less likely to believe that their child’s misbehavior was caused by variables intrinsic to their child. Further, parents were more likely to believe that their child’s ASD-related behaviour may change in the future. Parental attributions pre-intervention significantly predicted changes in over-reactive and verbose parenting across the program. However, future research is needed to confirm these findings and to determine whether treatment effect generalizes to other behavioural family interventions and various clinical populations. Once this effect is confirmed, it is recommended that future research seek to understand Stepping Stones Triple P’s mechanisms of change. Future research may also seek to identify mediating factors (e.g., anger, cognitions regarding child competence) for the prediction of dysfunctional parenting styles from parents’ attributions.
This exploratory study sought to understand the impact of parents’ attributions on treatment outcome in the context of participation in Stepping Stones Triple P. In light of these findings, the researchers cautiously concluded that Stepping Stones Triple P had a treatment effect for parents’ attributions. Indeed, parents’ attributions about their child were shaped to become more likely to promote parents’ engagement in the intervention. It was also found that parents’ attributions significantly affected their use of over-reactive and verbose parenting styles over the course of the intervention. However, the researchers suggest further research and theory be directed in these areas.