The Impact of Child Symptom Severity on Depressed Mood Among Parents of Children with ASD: The Mediating Role of Stress Proliferation

  • Paul R. BensonEmail author


Stress proliferation (the tendency of stressors to engender additional stressors in other life domains) is explored in a sample of 68 parents of children identified with ASD. Regression analyses showed that parent depression was predicted by both child symptom severity and by stress proliferation and that stress proliferation partially mediated the effect of child symptom severity on parent depression. In addition, informal social support was found to reduce levels of parent stress proliferation and parent depression; however, contrary to the stress buffering hypothesis, the ameliorative effect of support on stress proliferation was shown to be greatest when reported child symptomatology was less (rather than more) severe. Study implications for future research and practice are discussed.


Stress proliferation Autism ASD Parent depression Social support Symptom severity 



I am indebted to the parents who participated in the research and to the schools who assisted in the distribution of study questionnaires. Appreciation is also extended to Gary N. Siperstein and to three anonymous JADD reviewers for their very helpful comments on earlier drafts of this paper.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology and Center for Social Development and EducationUniversity of Massachusetts BostonUSA

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