Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 19, Issue 4, pp 516–524

The Impact of Child Symptom Severity on Stress Among Parents of Children with ASD: The Moderating Role of Coping Styles


    • Department of PsychologyLoyola University Chicago
  • Scott C. Leon
    • Department of PsychologyLoyola University Chicago
  • Carolyn E. Roecker Phelps
    • Department of PsychologyUniversity of Dayton
  • Alison M. Dunleavy
    • Department of PsychologyLoyola University Chicago
Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s10826-009-9323-5

Cite this article as:
Lyons, A.M., Leon, S.C., Roecker Phelps, C.E. et al. J Child Fam Stud (2010) 19: 516. doi:10.1007/s10826-009-9323-5


We examined the impact of autism severity and parental coping strategies on stress in parents of children with ASD. Children’s autism symptoms and parental coping strategies (task-oriented, emotion-oriented, social diversion, and distraction) were evaluated as predictors of four types of parental stress (parent and family problems, pessimism, child characteristics, and physical incapacity). In order to examine potential buffering effects of coping strategies on stress associated with the child’s symptom severity, the interactive effects of autism symptoms with coping strategies were also examined. Participants included 77 primary caregivers of a child with ASD. Using multiple regression analyses, emotion-oriented coping scores were associated with more parent and family problems, and task-oriented coping was associated with lower physical incapacity scores. The child’s autism severity was the strongest and most consistent predictor of stress. Further, emotion-oriented coping moderated the relationship between pessimism stress and autism symptomatology, and distraction coping was a moderator between parent and family stress and autism symptoms. Results indicate that increasing our knowledge of the coping strategies that are more or less effective and under what conditions some coping strategies may be either beneficial or harmful for this population of parents has direct implications for treatment and parent education efforts.


ASD Parenting Stress Coping Symptom severity

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009