Journal article Open Access

Medicating autism: Factors affecting the decision of parents regarding the use of psychotropic medicine for their children diagnosed with autism

Rilveria, John Robert

This paper utilised a sequential explanatory mixed-methods design comparing the experiences of 17 parents who use; and 23 parents who do not use psychotropic medicine for their children diagnosed with autism. The main objective is to identify the factors influencing their decision-making process. Quantitative analyses revealed that attitude towards treatment significantly differentiates parents who use (with more positive attitude levels) and parents who do not use (with more negative attitude levels) prescribed medicines. Furthermore, treatment attitude has been found to have significant association with three treatment decision variables. There was a low negative correlation with treatment cost and a high positive correlation with treatment belief and perceived behaviour severity. In the qualitative analysis, six factors were identified that influenced parents’ decision to use or not to use medicine: (1) perceived  mental health condition; (2) perception towards autism diagnosis; (3) doctor’s prescription and recommendation; (4) beliefs and attitudes towards treatment; (5) perceived necessity and expectation of treatment decision which include perceived improvement of the child (from parents who decided to have both therapy and medication and from parents who decided to have only therapy); and, (6) the problems encountered. Integrating both the quantitative and qualitative data led to the formulation of a treatment decision model that explains the interaction of five major variables (child, parent, doctor, decision, and treatment) in the decision-making process from which the parent variable, specifically perception and beliefs towards treatment directs the decision to use on not to use such treatment.

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