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

al distress is more general stress, such as that experienced by a person who is nervous about her job or life in general but may or may not be confident about her parenting.

The study included 73 mothers and their children 51 of the youngsters had an autism spectrum disorder and 22 had developmental delays. The families were part of a larger study exploring the neurobiology and developmental course of autism. The children in the stress study were predominantly male, white and about 3 years old when data was collected.

Parents filled out a number of detailed surveys that measured parenting stress, psychological distress, problem behaviors and adaptive functioning level. The last charted a child's daily living skills in such areas as dressing, feeding, using the toilet, bathing and helping with household chores.

The study, Estes said, looked at psychological stress, not psychiatric disorders in mothers.

"We were not diagnosing disorders and our sample of parents likely did not include the most distressed parents, those who did not have the resources to take the time to participate in a research study or those who were probably too busy and stressed raising a disabled child to participate.

She noted that problem behavior needs to be a crucial target in treating children with autism and developmental delay.

"We need to focus on it because it appears to have the potential to disrupt the family, parenting and the child. While problem behavior is not a core element of autism, it might rise to the top of the issues that have to be dealt with first in a clinical setting," Estes said. "Help in what we call family adaptive functioning is what we need to figure out in these cases. How to help families is important because high levels of stress and psychological distress can interfere with early identification of autism and interventions which are delivered by parents. There's another good reason to do this: Parents who
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Contact: Joel Schwarz
joels@u.washington.edu
206-543-2580
University of Washington
Source:Eurekalert

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