Original paper

Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 40, Issue 4, pp 457-469

First online:

Maternal Cortisol Levels and Behavior Problems in Adolescents and Adults with ASD

  • Marsha Mailick SeltzerAffiliated withWaisman Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison Email author 
  • , Jan S. GreenbergAffiliated withWaisman Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • , Jinkuk HongAffiliated withWaisman Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • , Leann E. SmithAffiliated withWaisman Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • , David M. AlmeidaAffiliated withPennsylvania State University
  • , Christopher CoeAffiliated withPsychology Department, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • , Robert S. StawskiAffiliated withPennsylvania State University

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


Using daily diary methods, mothers of adolescents and adults with ASD (n = 86) were contrasted with a nationally representative comparison group of mothers of similarly-aged unaffected children (n = 171) with respect to the diurnal rhythm of cortisol. Mothers of adolescents and adults with ASD were found to have significantly lower levels of cortisol throughout the day. Within the ASD sample, the son or daughter’s history of behavior problems interacted with daily behavior problems to predict the morning rise of the mother’s cortisol. A history of elevated behavior problems moderated the effect of behavior problems the day before on maternal cortisol level. Implications for interventions for both the mother and the individual with ASD are suggested.


Stress Cortisol Parenting Behavior problems Adolescents Adults