Increased Psychopathology in Parents of Children with Autism: Genetic Liability or Burden of Caregiving?
The goals of this research were to identify which psychopathologies are common in parents of children with autistic spectrum disorders (ASD) and to explore competing hypotheses regarding mechanisms contributing to this risk. By comparing rates of psychopathology in mothers and fathers of children with ASD to rates of psychopathology in parents of typically developing children, this study examined whether increased risk for psychopathology was likely related to genetics or to the burden of caring for a child with a disability. Participants were 269 parents of children with ASD and 446 parents of typically developing children. Mothers and fathers of children with ASD reported significantly more depression, interpersonal sensitivity, paranoid ideation, and obsessive-compulsive behaviors. The pattern of findings suggests that genetic factors, as opposed to caregiving demands, may contribute to the risk for psychopathology in parents of children with ASD.