Although numerous studies have demonstrated that social support affects a range of life experiences, few have examined its moderating and mediating effects. In the current study, 479 Chinese parents of children with ASD (aged 3–18 years) completed the surveys assessing parenting stress, social support and life satisfaction. Results indicated that parenting stress, social support and life satisfaction were significantly related. Moreover, social support both mediated and moderated the influence of parenting stress on life satisfaction. These findings imply that parenting stress and social support are critical indicators of life satisfaction and can serve as basic intervention strategies that promote life satisfaction among Chinese parents of children with ASD.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Abidin, R. R. (1995). Parenting stress index (3rd ed.): Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.
Brei, N. G., Schwarz, G. N., & Klein-Tasman, B. P. (2015). Predictors of parenting stress in children referred for an autism spectrum disorder diagnostic evaluation. Journal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities, 27(5), 617–635.
Cantwell, J., Muldoon, O., & Gallagher, S. (2015). The influence of self-esteem and social support on the relationship between stigma and depressive symptomology in parents caring for children with intellectual disabilities. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 59(10), 948–957.
Cidav, Z., Marcus, S. C., & Mandell, D. S. (2012). Implications of childhood autism for parental employment and earnings. Pediatrics, 129(4), 617–623.
Cobb, S. (1976). Presidential address: Social support as a moderator of life stress. Psychosomatic Medicine, 35–38, 300–314.
Diener, E., Emmons, R. A., Larsen, R. J., & Griffin, S. (1985). The satisfaction with life scale. Journal of Personality Assessment, 49, 71–75.
Falk, N. H., Norris, K., & Quinn, M. G. (2014). The factors predicting stress, anxiety and depression in the parents of children with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 44(12), 3185–3203.
Folkman, S., & Lazarus, R. S. (1985). If it changes it must be a process: Study of emotion and coping during three stages of a college examination. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 48(1)), 150–170.
Gong, Y., Du, Y., Li, H., Zhang, X., An, Y., & Wu, B. (2015). Parenting stress and affective symptoms in parents of autistic children. Science China Life Sciences, 58(10), 1036–1043.
Hartley, S. L., Papp, L. M., Blumenstock, S. M., Floyd, F., & Goetz, G. L. (2016). The effect of daily challenges in children with autism on parents’ couple problem-solving interactions. Journal of Family Psychology, 30(6), 732–742.
Hayes, S. A., & Watson, S. L. (2013). The impact of parenting stress: A meta-analysis of studies comparing the experience of parenting stress in parents of children with and without autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 43(3), 629–642.
Huang, A. X., Jia, M., & Wheeler, J. J. (2013). Children with autism in the People’s Republic of China: Diagnosis, legal issues, and educational services. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 43(9), 1991–2001.
Huang, C., Yen, H., Tseng, M., Tung, L., Chen, Y., & Chen, K. (2014). Impacts of autistic behaviors, emotional and behavioral problems on parenting stress in caregivers of children with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 44(6), 1383–1390.
Hutchison, L., Feder, M., Abar, B., & Winsler, A. (2016). Relations between parenting stress, parenting style, and child executive functioning for children with ADHD or autism. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 25(12), 3644–3656.
Jones, L., Totsika, V., Hastings, R. P., & Petalas, M. A. (2013). Gender differences when parenting children with autism spectrum disorders: A multilevel modeling approach. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 43(9), 2090–2098.
Kong, F., Wang, X., & Zhao, J. (2014). Dispositional mindfulness and life satisfaction: The role of core self-evaluations. Personality and Individual Differences 56, 165–169.
Liu, L., & Wang, M. (2015). Parenting stress and children’s problem behavior in China: The mediating role of parental psychological aggression. Journal of Family Psychology, 29(1), 20–28.
Liu, Y., Li, J., Zheng, Q., Zaroff, C. M., Hall, B. J., Li, X., et al. (2016). Knowledge, attitudes, and perceptions of autism spectrum disorder in a stratified sampling of preschool teachers in China. BMC Psychiatry, 16(1), 142.
Lu, M., Yang, G., Skora, E., Wang, G., Cai, Y., Sun, Q., et al. (2015). Self-esteem, social support, and life satisfaction in Chinese parents of children with autism spectrum disorder. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 17, 70–77.
Maxted, A. E., Dickstein, S., Miller-Loncar, C., High, P., Spritz, B., & Liu, J. L. B. M. (2005). Infant colic and maternal depression. Infant Mental Health Journal, 26(1), 56–68.
May, C., Fletcher, R., Dempsey, I., & Newman, L. (2015). Modeling relations among coparenting quality, autism-specific parenting self-efficacy, and parenting stress in mothers and fathers of children with ASD. Parenting Science and Practice, 15(2), 119–133.
Miranda, A., Tárraga, R., Fernández, M. I., Colomer, C., & Pastor, G. (2015). Parenting stress in families of children with autism spectrum disorder and ADHD. Exceptional Children, 82(1), 81–95.
Davis, N. O., & Carter, A. S. (2008). Parenting Stress in mothers and fathers of toddlers with autism spectrum disorders: Associations with child characteristics. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 38(7), 1278–1291.
Ou, J., Shi, L., Xun, G., Chen, C., Wu, R., Luo, X., et al. (2015). Employment and financial burden of families with preschool children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders in urban China: Results from a descriptive study. BMC Psychiatry, 15(1), 3.
Shivers, C. M., Leonczyk, C. L., & Dykens, E. M. (2016). Life satisfaction among mothers of individuals with prader-willi syndrome. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 46(6), 2126–2137.
Siklos, S., & Kerns, K. A. (2006). Assessing need for social support in parents of children with autism and down syndrome. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 36(7), 921–933.
Silva, L. M. T., & Schalock, M. (2012). Autism parenting stress index: Initial psychometric evidence. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 42(4), 566–574.
Tu, Y., & Yang, Z. (2016). Self-control as mediator and moderator of the relationship between social support and subjective well-being among the chinese elderly. Social Indicators Research, 126(2), 813–828.
Wang, J., Hu, Y., Wang, Y., Qin, X., Xia, W., Sun, C., et al. (2013). Parenting stress in Chinese mothers of children with autism spectrum disorders. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 48(4), 575–582.
Wang, J., Zhou, X., Xia, W., Sun, C., Wu, L., Wang, J., et al. (2012). Parent-reported health care expenditures associated with autism spectrum disorders in Heilongjiang province, China. BMC Health Services Research, 12(1), 7.
Werner, S., & Shulman, C. (2013). Subjective well-being among family caregivers of individuals with developmental disabilities: The role of affiliate stigma and psychosocial moderating variables. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 34(11), 4103–4114.
Xiong, N., Yong, L., & Yang, Y. (2010). Three years follow-up and investigation of rehabilitation conditions of children with autism. Chinese Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine, 25(7), 670–673.
Zhang, D., & Spencer, V. G. (2015). Addressing the needs of students with autism and other disabilities in China: Perspectives from the field. International Journal of Disability, Development and Education, 62(2), 168–181.
Zhao, J., Wang, Y., & Kong, F. (2014). Exploring the mediation effect of social support and self-esteem on the relationship between humor style and life satisfaction in Chinese college students. Personality and Individual Differences, 64, 126–130.
Zheng, Y., & Zheng, X. (2015). Current state and recent developments of child psychiatry in China. Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health, 9(1), 10.
Zimet, G. D., Dahlem, N. W., Zimet, S. G., & Farley, G. K. (1988). The multidimensional scale of perceived social support. Journal of Personality Assessment, 52, 30–52.
The authors would like to thank the parents that participated in this study, and are grateful to staff in many schools and rehabilitation centers for their assistance in the data collection. This work was supported by grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 81601162), Shanghai Municipal Commission of Health and Family Planning (Grant No. 20164Y0001), and Guangdong Philosophy and Social Science project (Grant No. GD17YJY02). We appreciate Sarah Bilodeau MA from the Essential Learning Group (ELG) for refining the language.
Conflict of interest
All the authors of this article have no conflict of interest.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of Guangzhou University and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Research Involving Human and Animal Participants
This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
About this article
Cite this article
Lu, MH., Wang, GH., Lei, H. et al. Social Support as Mediator and Moderator of the Relationship Between Parenting Stress and Life Satisfaction Among the Chinese Parents of Children with ASD. J Autism Dev Disord 48, 1181–1188 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-017-3448-y