, Volume 35, Issue 5, pp 635-644
Date: 20 Sep 2005

Systems Analysis of Stress and Positive Perceptions in Mothers and Fathers of Pre-School Children with Autism

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Systemic analyses of psychological functioning in families of children with autism have typically shown that parents report different experiences (e.g., stress) and that siblings may also be affected. The purpose of the present research was more explicitly to address relationships between child, partner, and parent variables. Parents of 48 children with autism (41 mother–father pairs) reported on child characteristics, and their own stress and mental health. Mothers were found to report both more depression and more positive perceptions than fathers. Regression analyses revealed that paternal stress and positive perceptions were predicted by maternal depression; maternal stress was predicted by their children’s behavior problems (not adaptive behavior or autism symptoms) and by their partner’s depression. The future testing of the mechanisms underlying these results is discussed. In addition, the need is emphasized for more systemic analyses to understand the psychological functioning of children with autism and their siblings and parents.