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Estes A, Munson J, Dawson G, Koehler E, Zhou XH, Abbott R. Parenting stress and psychological functioning among mothers of preschool children with autism and developmental delay. Autism : The International Journal of Research and Practice. 2009 Jul 1; 13(4):375-87.
Parents of children with developmental disabilities, particularly autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), are at risk for high levels of distress. The factors contributing to this are unclear. This study investigated how child characteristics influence maternal parenting stress and psychological distress. Participants consisted of mothers and developmental-age matched preschool-aged children with ASD (N = 51) and developmental delay without autism (DD) ( N = 22). Evidence for higher levels of parenting stress and psychological distress was found in mothers in the ASD group compared to the DD group. Children's problem behavior was associated with increased parenting stress and psychological distress in mothers in the ASD and DD groups. This relationship was stronger in the DD group. Daily living skills were not related to parenting stress or psychological distress. Results suggest clinical services aiming to support parents should include a focus on reducing problem behaviors in children with developmental disabilities.