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Parental Stress Linked to Behavioral Problems

By Mark N. Ziats on November 28, 2012


Background: Parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have high stress levels and an increased risk for psychological problems like depression and anxiety, likely due to the daily stressors associated with parenting a child with ASD.  However, little is known about stress contributors among parents who have very young children with ASD.


What’s new: A recent study published in the journal Brain and Development studied stress among parents with very young autistic children (18 – 30 months).  Ninety-six parents with children who had ASD, developmental delay, or normal development completed self-report questionnaires that measured parental stress and psychological distress.  Additionally, the parents completed surveys assessing their child’s behavior patterns and daily living skills.


The results showed that mothers of young children with ASD had significantly higher stress than other mothers, but no difference in psychological distress. According to the study, a mother’s stress is more linked to a child’s behavioral problems, rather than daily living skills, at this age group. This association held true for parents raising young children with autism as well as those caring for children with developmental delay.


Why it’s important: Parental stress is significant in mothers of children with ASD, and this research shows that stress is prevalent even when the child is a toddler.  This study suggests that strategies to manage and reduce behavioral problems in young children with ASD may help decrease parental stress.

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