The Buffering Effect of Resilience upon Stress, Anxiety and Depression in Parents of a Child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder

Abstract

The possible buffering effects of psychological resilience on stress, anxiety and depression associated with parenting a child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) were investigated in 73 mothers and 35 fathers who had at least one child with an ASD and who completed a questionnaire about their experiences as parents. Mothers were significantly more anxious and depressed than fathers, and reported being “stretched beyond their resources” more frequently than fathers. Both mothers and fathers reported clinically significant anxiety and depression between three and five times the rate reported in the normal adult population. Moderation analysis showed that psychological resilience acted as a buffer against the development of elevated anxiety and depression associated with high levels of daily stress from parenting. Further, although the daily stress of parenting a child with an ASD was associated with quite severe anxiety and depression, even relatively low levels of resilience buffered against this anxiety and depression. Suggestions are made for assisting parents to develop psychological resilience in dealing with the stress associated with parenting their child with an ASD.

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Acknowledgments

The authors gratefully acknowledge the assistance of the parents of children with an ASD who participated in this study. The contribution made by the Collaborative Research Network on Mental Health and Well-being in Rural Communities, supported by the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education, Commonwealth Government of Australia is also acknowledged.

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The authors have no financial disclosures or conflicts of interest to make.

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Correspondence to Christopher F. Sharpley.

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Bitsika, V., Sharpley, C.F. & Bell, R. The Buffering Effect of Resilience upon Stress, Anxiety and Depression in Parents of a Child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. J Dev Phys Disabil 25, 533–543 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10882-013-9333-5

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Keywords

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Resilience
  • Parents
  • ASD