Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 45, Issue 4, pp 1084–1095 | Cite as

Parenting Stress, Salivary Biomarkers, and Ambulatory Blood Pressure: A Comparison Between Mothers and Fathers of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

  • Ciara Foody
  • Jack E. JamesEmail author
  • Geraldine Leader
Original Paper


Parents of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) may experience higher levels of stress and health problems than parents of children with typical development. However, most research has focused on mothers, with emphasis on parent-reported stress and wellbeing. This study compared parenting responsibility, distress, anxiety, depression, cortisol, alpha-amylase, and cardiovascular activity between 19 mother–father dyads of children with ASD. Mothers reported higher parenting responsibility, distress, anxiety, and depression than fathers, while fathers had higher blood pressure and heart rate variability. Mothers and fathers had lower than average morning cortisol levels, suggesting stress effects on the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal-axis. Parents of children with ASD may benefit from routine health screening (particularly adrenal and cardiovascular function) and referral for stress reduction interventions or supports.


Autism spectrum disorder Parent stress Cortisol Alpha-amylase Ambulatory blood pressure 


Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ciara Foody
    • 1
  • Jack E. James
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Geraldine Leader
    • 1
  1. 1.School of PsychologyNational University of IrelandGalwayIreland
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyReykjavik UniversityReykjavíkIceland

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