Factors Predicting Stress in Parents Caring for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Arunthavam, Nirmatha
Shepherd, Daniel
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Bachelor of Health Science (Honours)
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Auckland University of Technology

Background: Previous studies have suggested that parents caring for children with ASD experience increased psychological distress in comparison to caring for children with other developmental and physical disabilities. Studies have also indicated that comorbidity symptoms in children with ASD cause higher levels of parenting stress. However, there is a lack of research focusing on factors such as comorbid conditions, problem behaviours and core symptoms of ASD displayed by children and the impact it has on parenting stress.

Aim: Overall this study aims to examine the three factors listed: core ASD symptoms, problem behaviour, and comorbidities in an attempt to identify whether these contribute to the care-related stress of parents caring for a child with ASD. The study also analysed demographic variables of the child and parent along with mental and physical aspects of the parent’s stress.

Method: A total of 133 participants were recruited through the support of a New Zealand autism organisation. All participants were above 18 and identified themselves as parents caring for a child with an autism spectrum disorder. Data was gathered through an online questionnaire regarding their child with autism and parental experience in raising them.

Results: Descriptive and regression analyses were conducted based on the data gathered. Regression analysis aided in identifying factors predicting stress in parents caring for children with autism. Variables such as language impairment, comorbid conditions, social behaviours, emotional and social reciprocity showcased by the child along with parental relationship-status and lack of rewards for parents were all analysed in this present study.

Conclusion: The present study identified that parents caring for children with ASD experienced increased stress due to factors such as comorbid conditions, presence of behavioural problems and core ASD symptoms,

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