Katie Weastell

Doctor of Clinical Psychology, (Psychology)
Study Completed: 2017
College of Humanities & Social Sciences


Thesis Title
Raising a Child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder: The Experience of Stigma by Association, its Impact on Caregiver Wellbeing, the Influence of Signature Strengths, and the Experience of Growth

Read article at Massey Research Online: MRO icon

Raising a child with an autism spectrum disorder can be a stressful experience not only as the child experiences social, behavioural, and communication difficulties, but also as the child is stigmatised. To date few studies have investigated the stressor of caregiver stigma, known as stigma by association. Positive psychological theory suggests people who maintain greater wellbeing in spite of stress utilise their personal signature strengths, and that it is possible to thrive in spite of high stress loads. Utilising a mixed methods research design, Ms Weastell investigated the experience of primary caregivers of children with autism spectrum disorders in New Zealand. Findings suggested that stigma by association is a significant stressor encountered by all participants, which significantly affects caregiver wellbeing. Promisingly, signature strengths of hope and gratitude decreased the negative influence of stigma by association on caregiver wellbeing, and all participants identified many ways they not only survived, but thrived.

Associate Professor Ross Flett
Associate Professor Paul Merrick
Dr Natasha Tassell-Matamua

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