Lara L. South


The purpose of this study was to expand previous research regarding beliefs in mothers of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (MCDAs). Specifically, the pilot to this dissertation showed that mothers believed that the disorder was more stable than any specific behavior, but this distinction was not found for beliefs about treatment being able to control the disorder versus behaviors. Consequently, the quantitative strand of this study aimed to determine whether the mothers’ beliefs about locus of control interacted with beliefs about treatment control. It was hypothesized that mothers with a higher belief in personal locus of control (LOC) compared to beliefs about external loci of control (i.e., child, professional, divine influence, chance) would view treatment as being able to control behaviors more than the disorder. Furthermore, these beliefs were viewed within the framework of the Commonsense Self-Regulation Model, which includes beliefs, emotions, coping methods, and appraisals. Accordingly, qualitative methods were used to expand the exploration of interactions beyond just the domain of beliefs to the entire process. In other words, the qualitative strand of this study aimed to determine if the self-regulation process occurred in MCDAs, and if so, how? Most of the results of the quantitative strand were not statistically significant, indicating that the distinction between the disorder and specific behaviors was not as pronounced for beliefs about treatment control as it was for stability beliefs, even when considering MCDAs’ beliefs about LOC. However, the few results that were significant were in the opposite direction as hypothesized. For the qualitative strand, while the self-regulation process was supported, additional themes emerged related to different systemic levels (e.g., systems mothers directly interacted with, systems interacting with each other, indirect interactions, and culture). Specifically, MCDAs’ processes were more completely represented by integrating the Commonsense Self-Regulation Model with Bronfenbrenner’s Bioecological Model and looking at elements related to Process, Person, Context, and Time (PPCT). These results have clinical and research implications for considering internal and systemic interactions. In particular, it would be important to increase positive interactions between MCDAs and other systems that impact the mothers’ processes of understanding and helping their children.

LLU Discipline

Clinical Psychology




School of Behavioral Health

First Advisor

Freeman, Kimberly

Second Advisor

James, Sigrid

Third Advisor

Montgomery, Susanne B.

Fourth Advisor

Neece, Cameron

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Level


Year Degree Awarded


Date (Title Page)




Library of Congress/MESH Subject Headings

Autism Spectrum Disorder; Adaptation -- Psychological; Internal-external control

Subject - Local

Mothers; Locus of Control; Commonsense Self-regulation Model; Parental understanding of disorder



Page Count


Digital Format


Digital Publisher

Loma Linda University Libraries

Usage Rights

This title appears here courtesy of the author, who has granted Loma Linda University a limited, non-exclusive right to make this publication available to the public. The author retains all other copyrights.


Loma Linda University Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Collection Website


Loma Linda University. Del E. Webb Memorial Library. University Archives