The efficacy of WeChat-based parenting training on the psychological well-being of mothers with autistic children during the COVID-19 pandemic: A quasi-experimental study

Guihua Liu, Shuo Wang, Jinhua Liao, Ping Ou, Longsheng Huang, Namei Xie, Yingshuang He, Jinling Lin, Hong-Gu He, Rongfang Hu
JMIR Mental Health 2021 January 19

BACKGROUND: During the COVID-19 pandemic, special education schools for children in most areas of China were closed between the end of January and the beginning of June in 2020. The sudden interruptions of schooling and the pandemic itself caused parents to be anxious and to even panic. Mobile parenting skills education has been proved to be an effective method in improving the psychological well-being of mothers with autistic children. However, whether it can improve the psychological states of mothers in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic is an urgent subject to be investigated.

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the efficacy of WeChat-based parenting training (WBPT) on anxiety, depression, parenting stress, and hope for mothers with autistic children as well as the feasibility of the program during the COVID-19 pandemic.

METHODS: This was a quasi-experimental trial. A total of 125 mothers with preschool autistic children were recruited in January 2020. The participants were assigned into the control group (n=60), receiving routine care, or the intervention group (n=65), receiving the 12-week WBPT plus routine care according to their preferences. Anxiety, depression, parenting stress, hope, satisfaction, and adherence to the intervention were measured at three timepoints: the baseline (T0), post-intervention (T1), and 20 weeks follow-up (T2).

RESULTS: One hundred and nine mothers completed the T1 assessment and 104 mothers completed the T2 assessment. The results of the linear mixed model analysis showed statistically significant group*time interaction effects for the intervention on anxiety (F=14.219, P<.001), depression (F=26.563, P<.001), parenting stress (F=68.572, P<.001), and hope (F=197.608, P<.001). Of all mothers in the intervention group, 90.4% reported that they were extremely satisfied with the WBPT. In total, 40.0% kept the logging recordings for home training each week and 61.5% kept more than 80% for all 20 weeks.

CONCLUSIONS: The WBPT is acceptable and appears to be an effective approach for reducing anxiety, depression, and parenting stress and increasing hope in mothers with autistic children during the global COVID-19 pandemic. Future studies with rigorous designs and longer follow-up periods are needed to further detect the effectiveness of the WBPT.

CLINICALTRIAL: Chinese Clinical Trial Registry, ChiCTR2000031772;

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