Date of Completion
autism spectrum disorder, sexual health, parents, attitudes, self-efficacy, sex education
Mary Beth Bruder
Field of Study
Doctor of Philosophy
Introduction: Previous research indicates children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) receive less sex education than their typically-developing peers. Parents are often their primary educators, and may feel uncomfortable and inadequate to provide sex education to their children with ASD. The purpose of this study was to investigate parental sexual health attitudes and parent sexual health self-efficacy beliefs in providing sexual health education to their children with ASD.
Methods: Parent participants were recruited utilizing national and Connecticut-specific organizations dedicated to serving families with children with ASD to participate in a one-time, online, anonymous survey. Two instruments, the Family Life Sex Education Goal Questionnaire II (FLSE-GQ-II) and the Parent Self-Efficacy Scale (PSES) assessed parental attitudes and parental self-efficacy beliefs on various sex-related topics.
Results: Twenty-seven parents, majority white and well-educated, participated in this study; three males and 24 females, of 24 male and three female children. Results indicate that parents felt all sex-related topics were at least somewhat important to sex education and they felt at least somewhat sure that they could provide education to their child on all topics. There were significant differences between groups of parents based on severity of the child’s communication deficits; parents of children with more severe communication deficits felt less self-efficacious than parents of children with less severe communication deficits across all 17 items of the PSES. There were no mean differences between groups for parent age, parent level of education, or parent reported level of ASD social deficits.
Discussion: While in general parents felt all topics were important and they felt generally somewhat sure that they could provide education on all topics, the sample was small and homogenous. Lack of parent participation in addition to group differences across severity of ASD communication deficits indicate further research is needed in this area. Understanding barriers to parent participation will inform future studies. Understanding parent sexual health attitudes and self-efficacy will better inform future programming and supports to empower parents which will then allow children with ASD to make informed decisions about their sexual health behaviors.
Lutz, Tara M., "An Exploratory Study of the Sexual Health Attitudes and Sexual Health Self-Efficacy Beliefs of Parents of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder" (2017). Doctoral Dissertations. 1565.