Perceptions of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Etiology among Parents of Children with ASD

Wei-Ju Chen, The University of Texas Permian Basin, Odessa
Zihan Zhang, Texas A&M University, College Station
Haocen Wang, Department of Health and Kinesiology, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843, USA.
Tung-Sung Tseng, LSU Health Science Center - New Orleans
Ping Ma, Texas A&M University, College Station
Lei-Shih Chen, Texas A&M University, College Station


BACKGROUND: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by social communication deficits and restricted or repetitive behaviors. Parental perceptions of the etiology of their child's ASD can affect provider-client relationships, bonding between parents and their children, and the prognosis, treatment, and management of children with ASD. Thus, this study sought to examine the perceptions of ASD etiology of parents of children with ASD. METHODS: Forty-two parents of children diagnosed with ASD were recruited across Texas. Semi-structured interviews were conducted individually. All interviews were recorded and later transcribed verbatim for content analysis utilizing NVivo 12.0 (QSR International, Doncaster, Australia). RESULTS: The content analysis identified the following themes regarding parental perceptions of ASD etiology: Genetic factors (40.5%), environmental factors (31.0%), problems that occurred during pregnancy or delivery (23.8%), vaccinations (16.7%), other health problems (7.1%), parental age at the time of pregnancy (4.8%), and spiritual or religious factors (2.4%). CONCLUSIONS: The parental perceptions of ASD etiology were diverse, but several views, such as vaccinations and spiritual or religious factors, were not based on scientific evidence. Health professionals and researchers can use these findings to develop and provide targeted education to parents who have children with ASD. Our findings also support policymakers in developing campaigns designed to increase parental ASD awareness and knowledge.