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Mothers of children with autism have higher parental stress, psychological distress
Date:7/8/2009

Ask any mother and she'll tell you that raising a preschooler is no easy task. Now imagine what it must be like to bring up a child with autism or a developmental delay.

Researchers at the University of Washington's Autism Center asked mothers about their experiences and found that moms of children with autism had higher levels of parenting-related stress and psychological distress than mothers of children with developmental delay. Children's problem behavior was associated with increases in both parenting-related stress and distress in both groups, but this relationship was stronger in mothers of children with autism.

"Both groups of women are dealing with children who need high levels of care-giving. But there is something about autism that is making a difference and adding stress and psychological distress to these mothers," said Annette Estes, lead author of a new study and associate director of the UW Autism Center.

Surprisingly, the research also found no link between a child's decreased daily living skills and increased parental stress and psychological distress.

"This finding was counterintuitive," said Estes, who is also a research assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences. "If a child has more needs in getting dressed and in other daily living skills, that means the parents are working harder and seemingly would be under stress. But it is not the hard work that is stressing the mothers. Our findings really pointed to the behavior problems that can occur with autism. Children with autism had significantly higher levels of problem behaviors than children with developmental delay."

These behavior problems included such things as irritability, agitation, crying, inappropriate speech and not being able to follow rules.

For this study parental stress was defined as being the stress directly related to a person's role as a parent and parenting a child with a disability. Psychologic
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Contact: Joel Schwarz
joels@u.washington.edu
206-543-2580
University of Washington
Source:Eurekalert

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