Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 40, Issue 2, pp 167–178 | Cite as

Daily Experiences Among Mothers of Adolescents and Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder

  • Leann E. SmithEmail author
  • Jinkuk Hong
  • Marsha Mailick Seltzer
  • Jan S. Greenberg
  • David M. Almeida
  • Somer L. Bishop
Original Paper


In the present study, 96 co-residing mothers of adolescents and adults with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) participated in an 8-day diary study and reported on their daily experiences. In comparison with a nationally representative sample of mothers of children without disabilities, mothers of adolescent and adult children with ASD spent significantly more time providing childcare and doing chores, and less time in leisure activities. Fatigue, arguments, avoided arguments, and stressful events were also more common among mothers of individuals with ASD. However, mothers of individuals with ASD reported similar levels of positive interactions and volunteerism as the comparison group. Daily experiences were subsequently related to well-being in both groups. These findings highlight the need for family support services.


Daily experiences Stress Maternal well-being Adolescents and adults with ASD 



This research was supported by grants from the National Institute on Aging to support longitudinal research on families of adolescents and adults with autism (R01 AG08768, M. Seltzer, PI) and to conduct a longitudinal follow-up of the MIDUS (Midlife in the US) investigation (P01 AG020166, C. Ryff, PI, and R01AG019239, D. Almeida, PI). The original MIDUS study was supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Successful Midlife Development. Support was also obtained from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development for grants P30 HD03352 to the Waisman Center (M. Seltzer, PI) at the UW-Madison and T32 HD07489 to L. Abbeduto, PI.


  1. Abbeduto, L., Seltzer, M. M., Shattuck, P., Krauss, M. W., Osmond, G., & Murphy, M. M. (2004). Psychological well-being and coping in mothers of youths with autism, Down syndrome, or fragile X syndrome. American Journal on Mental Retardation, 109, 237–254.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Almeida, D. M. (2005). Resilience and vulnerability to daily stressors assessed via diary methods. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 14, 64–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Almeida, D. M., Wethington, E., & Chandler, A. L. (1999). Daily transmission of tensions between marital dyads and parent–child dyads. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 61, 49–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Almeida, D. M., Wethington, E., & Kessler, R. C. (2002). The daily inventory of stressful events: An interview-based approach for measuring daily stressors. Assessment, 9, 41–55.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Blacher, J., & McIntyre, L. L. (2006). Syndrome specificity and behavior disorders in young adults with intellectual disability: Cultural differences in family impact. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 50, 184–198.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Bolger, N., Davis, A., & Rafaeli, E. (2003). Diary methods: Capturing life as it is lived. Annual Reviews of Psychology, 54, 579–616.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Brandon, P. (2007). Time away from “smelling the roses”: Where do mothers raising children with disabilities find time to work? Social Science and Medicine, 65, 667–679.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Brim, O. G., Ryff, C. D., & Kessler, R. C. (2004). The MIDUS national survey: An overview. In O. G. Brim, C. D. Ryff, & R. C. Kessler (Eds.), How healthy are we? A national study of well-being at midlife (pp. 1–36). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  9. Crnic, K. A., & Greenberg, M. T. (1990). Minor parenting stresses with young children. Child Development, 61, 1628–1637.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. DeLongis, A., Folkman, S., & Lazarus, R. S. (1988). The impact of daily stress on health and mood: Psychological and social resources as mediators. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54, 486–495.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Duarte, C. S., Bordin, I. A., Yazigi, L., & Mooney, J. (2005). Factors associated with stress in mothers of children with autism. Autism, 9, 416–427.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Eisenhower, A. S., Baker, B. L., & Blacher, J. (2005). Preschool children with intellectual disability: Syndrome specificity, behavior problems, and maternal well-being. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 49, 657–671.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Fisher, J. D., Nadler, A., & Whitcher-Alagna, S. (1982). Recipient reactions to aid. Psychological Bulletin, 91, 27–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gruenewald, T. L., Mroczek, D. K., Ryff, C. D., & Singer, B. H. (2008). Diverse pathways to positive and negative affect in adulthood and later life: An integrative approach using recursive partitioning. Developmental Psychology, 44(2), 330–343.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Heller, T., & Schindler, A. (2009). Family support interventions for families of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. In L. M. Glidden & M. M. Seltzer (Eds.), International review of research in mental retardation (Vol. 37). San Diego, CA: Academic Press/Elsevier.Google Scholar
  16. Kessler, R. C., Andrews, G., Colpe, L. J., Hiripi, E., Mroczek, D. K., Normand, S. L. T., et al. (2002). Short screening scales to monitor population prevalences and trends in non-specific psychological distress. Psychological Medicine, 36, 959–976.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Lampinen, P., Heikkinen, R.-L., Kauppinen, M., & Heikkinen, E. (2006). Activity as predictor of mental well-being among older adults. Aging and Mental Health, 10, 454–466.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Lord, C., Rutter, M., & Le Couteur, A. (1994). Autism diagnostic interview—Revised: A revised version of a diagnostic interview for caregivers of individuals with possible pervasive developmental disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 24, 659–685.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Montes, G., & Halterman, J. S. (2006). Psychological functioning and coping among mothers of children with autism: A population-based study. Pediatrics, 119, 1040–1046.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Mroczek, D. K., & Kolarz, C. M. (1998). The effect of age on positive and negative affect: A developmental perspective on happiness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 1333–1349.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Pottie, C. G., Cohen, J., & Ingram, K. M. (2009). Parenting a child with autism: Contextual factors associated with enhance daily parental mood. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 34, 419–429.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Raudenbush, S. W., & Bryk, A. S. (2002). Hierarchical linear models: Applications and data analysis methods (2nd ed.). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  23. Repetti, R. L., & Wood, J. (1997). Effects of daily stress at work on mothers’ interactions with preschoolers. Journal of Family Psychology, 11, 90–108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Rutter, M., Le Couteur, A., & Lord, C. (2003). ADI-R. Autism diagnostic interview-revised WPS edition. Los Angeles: Western Psychological Services.Google Scholar
  25. Savla, J., Almeida, D. M., Davey, A., & Zarit, S. H. (2008). Routine assistance to parents: Effects on daily mood and other stressors. Journal of Gerontology, 63, 154–161.Google Scholar
  26. Seltzer, M. M., Krauss, M. W., Shattuck, P. T., Orsmond, G., Swe, A., & Lord, C. (2003). The symptoms of autism spectrum disorders in adolescence and adulthood. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 33, 565–581.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Seltzer, M. M., Almeida, D. M., Greenberg, J. S., Savla, J., Stawski, R. S., Hong, J., et al. (2009). Psychological and biological markers of daily lives of midlife parents of children with disabilities. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 50, 1–15.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Shattuck, P. T., Seltzer, M. M., Greenberg, J. S., Orsmond, G. I., Bolt, D., Kring, S., et al. (2007). Change in autism symptoms and maladaptive behaviors in adolescents and adults with an autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 13, 129–135.Google Scholar
  29. Williams, K. (2003). Has the future of marriage arrived? A contemporary examination of gender, marriage, and psychological well-being. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 44, 470–487.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Leann E. Smith
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jinkuk Hong
    • 1
  • Marsha Mailick Seltzer
    • 1
  • Jan S. Greenberg
    • 1
  • David M. Almeida
    • 2
  • Somer L. Bishop
    • 1
  1. 1.Waisman CenterUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA
  2. 2.Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA

Personalised recommendations