Parenting Stress in Mothers and Fathers of Toddlers with Autism Spectrum Disorders: Associations with Child Characteristics

  • Naomi Ornstein Davis
  • Alice S. CarterEmail author
Original Paper


Elevated parenting stress is observed among mothers of older children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), but little is known about parents of young newly-diagnosed children. Associations between child behavior and parenting stress were examined in mothers and fathers of 54 toddlers with ASD (mean age = 26.9 months). Parents reported elevated parenting stress. Deficits/delays in children’s social relatedness were associated with overall parenting stress, parent–child relationship problems, and distress for mothers and fathers. Regulatory problems were associated with maternal stress, whereas externalizing behaviors were associated with paternal stress. Cognitive functioning, communication deficits, and atypical behaviors were not uniquely associated with parenting stress. Clinical assessment of parental stress, acknowledging differences in parenting experiences for mothers and fathers of young children with ASD, is needed.


Toddlers Parenting stress Autism spectrum disorders Mothers and fathers 



This research was conducted as part of the Studies to Advance Autism Research and Treatment (STAART) center at Boston University. Funding was provided by National Institute of Mental Health grant U54 MH 66398 (Helen Tager-Flusberg, Center Principal Investigator, Alice S. Carter, Project Principal Investigator) as well as grants from the National Alliance for Autism Research (Alice S. Carter, Principal Investigator) and the Boston University General Clinical Research Center. We thank the STAART Center staff for their dedicated work on this project and especially Mary Beth Kadlec for her insightful feedback on this paper. We are particularly grateful to the families of the children in this study, whose participation in our project inspires this work and makes it possible


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Massachusetts BostonBostonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Anatomy and NeurobiologyBoston University School of MedicineBostonUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of North Carolina School of MedicineChapel HillUSA

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