Parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as well as parents of children with intellectual disability (ID), in addition to stress related to a child’s disability, may experience loneliness and social isolation. The purpose of this study was to verify the mediating role of actually received and perceived available social support in relationship between extraversion and sense of loneliness in parents of children with ASD and parents of children with ID.
168 parents of children with ASD and 111 parents of children with ID, without autistic traits, participated in the study. The following research tools were used: De Jong Gierveld Loneliness Scale (DJGLS) in the Polish adaptation; Polish adaptation of Ten Item Personality Inventory (TIPI): TIPI-PL; Berlin Social Support Scales (BSSS) – Polish version and a survey questionnaire.
It was shown in group of parents of children with ASD that extraversion weakens the sense of loneliness through the perceived available social support (Z = -3,846, p = 0.001, C.I. [-1.608; -0.496]). In this sample, the analogous, mediating role of actually received support in the relationship between the distinguished variables was also identified (Z = -2.970, p = 0.003, C.I. [-1,364; -0.249]). In turn, in the group of parents of children with ID, the existence of a mediating role of only perceived available support in the relationship between extraversion and a sense of loneliness was noticed (Z = -2.799, p = 0.005, C.I. [-1,625; -0.236]).
The research results indicate that extraversion participates in complex mechanisms of regulating the sense of loneliness in parents of children with ASD and parents of children with ID, in which the perceived and received support plays an important role as intermediary variables. It is advisable to sensitize parents to the importance of social support and help in building resources, and to inform about possible and available forms of assistance in the immediate environment.