This chapter examines the relationships between parents and their child with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), focusing particularly on parenting stress and limit-setting behaviors. It summarizes the literature on the “lived experience” of parents of children with ASD and places these experiences in relation to models describing interactions between parenting stress, parenting behaviors, and child behaviors. The literature suggests there is no intrinsic difference between parents of children with ASD and typically developing children. Rather, parents of children with ASD experience very high stress, which disposes them to focus on negative aspects of their child’s behavior and sometimes to use less positive-parenting practices, which, in turn, affect the problem behaviors of children.
- Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Child Behavior
- Parenting Stress
- Parenting Behavior
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Aldred C, Green J, Adams C. A new social communication intervention for children with autism: pilot randomised controlled treatment study suggesting effectiveness. J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2004;45:1420–30.
Allik H, Larsson J-O, Smedje H. Health-related quality of life in parents of school-age children with Asperger syndrome or high-functioning autism. Health Qual Life Outcomes. 2006;4:1–8.
Altiere MJ, von Kluge S. Searching for acceptance: challenges encountered while raising a child with autism. J Intellect Dev Disabil. 2009;34:142–52.
Ammerman RT, Hersen M, Van Hasselt VB, Lubetsky MJ, Sieck WR. Maltreatment in psychiatrically hospitalized children and adolescents with developmental disabilities: prevalence and correlates. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 1994;33:567–76.
Asperger H. Die ‘aunstisehen Psychopathen’ im Kindesalter. Arch Psychiatr Nervenkr. 1944;117:76–136.
Austin EJ. Personality correlates of the broader autism phenotype as assessed by the Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ). Pers Indiv Differ. 2005;38:451–60.
Austin JK, Dunn DW, Johnson CS, Perkins SM. Behavioral issues involving children and adolescents with epilepsy and the impact of their families: recent research data. Epilepsy Behav. 2004;5:33–41.
Baker JK, Fenning RM, Crnic KA, Baker BL, Blacher J. Prediction of social skills in 6-year-old children with and without developmental delays: contributions of early regulation and maternal scaffolding. Am J Ment Retard. 2007;112:375–91.
Baker JK, Messinger DS, Lyons KK, Grantz CJ. A pilot study of maternal sensitivity in the context of emergent autism. J Autism Dev Disord. 2010;40:988–99.
Baron-Cohen S, Wheelwright S, Stott C, Bolton P, Goodyer I. Is there a link between engineering and autism? Autism. 1997;1:101–9.
Baxter C, Cummins RA, Yiolitis L. Parental stress attributed to family members with and without disability: a longitudinal study. J Intellect Dev Disabil. 2000;25:105–18.
Belsky J, Woolworth S, Crnic K. Trouble in the second year: three questions about family interaction. Child Dev. 1996;67:556–78.
Benson PR. Network characteristics, perceived social support, psychological adjustment in mothers of children with autism spectrum disorder. J Autism Dev Disord. 2012;42:2597–610.
Bettelheim B. The empty fortress: infantile autism and the birth of the self. Oxford: Free Press Glencoe; 1967.
Beurkens NM, Hobson JA, Hobson RP. Autism severity and qualities of parent–child relations. J Autism Dev Disorder. 2012;43:168–78.
Blacher J, McIntyre LL. Syndrome specificity and behavioural disorders in young adults with intellectual disability: cultural differences in family impact. J Intellect Dev Disabil. 2006;50:184–98.
Bloch JS, Weinstein JD. Families of young children with autism. Soc Work Ment Health. 2010;8:23–40.
Boyd BA. Examining the relationship between stress and lack of social support in mothers of children with autism. Focus Autism Dev Disabil. 2002;17:208–15.
Brobst JB, Clopton JR, Hendrick SS. Parenting children with autism spectrum disorders: the couples’ relationship. Focus Autism Dev Disabil. 2009;24:38–49.
Bugental DB, Johnston C. Parental and child cognitions in the context of the family. Annu Rev Psychol. 2000;51:315–44.
Capps L, Sigman M, Mundy P. Attachment security in children with autism. Dev Psychopathol. 1994;6:249–61.
Conger RD, Patterson GR, Ge X. It takes two to replicate: a mediational model for the impact of parents’ stress on adolescent adjustment. Child Dev. 1995;66:80–97.
Dabrowska A, Pisula E. Parenting stress and coping styles in mothers and fathers of pre-school children with autism and Down syndrome. J Intellect Disabil Res. 2010;54:266–80.
Dale E, Jahoda A, Knott F. Mothers’ attributions following their child’s diagnosis of autistic spectrum disorder: exploring links with maternal levels of stress, depression and expectations about their child’s future. Autism. 2006;10:463–79.
Deater-Deckard K. Parenting stress and child adjustment: some old hypotheses and new questions. Clin Psychol Sci Pract. 1998;5:314–32.
DeGrace BW. The everyday occupation of families with children with autism. Am J Occup Ther. 2004;58:543–50.
Dissanayake C, Crossley SA. Proximity and sociable behaviours in autism: evidence for attachment. J Child Psychol Psychiat. 1996;37:149–56.
Donenberg G, Baker BL. The impact of young children with externalizing behaviors on their families. J Abnorm Child Psychol. 1993;21:179–97.
Doussard-Roosevelt JA, Joe CM, Bazhenova OV, Porges SW. Mother-child interaction in autistic and nonautistic children: characteristics of maternal approach behaviours and child social responses. Dev Psychopathol. 2003;15:277–95.
Durate CS, Bordin IA, Yazigi L, Mooney J. Factors associated with stress in mothers of children with autism. Autism. 2005;9:416–27.
Ehrensaft MK, Wasserman GA, Verdelli L, et al. Maternal antisocial behaviour, parenting practices, and behaviour problems in boys at risk for antisocial behaviour. J Child Fam Stud. 2003;12:27–40.
Eisenhower AS, Baker BL, Blacher J. Preschool children with intellectual disability: syndrome specificity, behaviour problems, and maternal well-being. J Intellect Disabil Res. 2005;49:657–71.
Elsabbagh M, Johnson MH. Getting answers from babies about autism. Trend Cogn Sci. 2010;14:81–7.
Fenning RM, Baker JK, Baker BL, Crnic KA. Parenting children with borderline intellectual functioning: a unique risk population. Am J Ment Retard. 2007;112:107–21.
Floyd FJ, Gallagher EM. Parental stress, care demands, and use of support services for school-age children with disabilities and behavior problems. Fam Relat. 1997;46:359–71.
Fong PL. Cognitive appraisals in high- and low-stress mothers of adolescents with autism. J Consult Clin Psychol. 1991;59:471–4.
Fong L, Wilgosh L, Sobsey D. The experience of parenting an adolescent with autism. Int J Disabil Dev Educ. 1993;40:105–13.
Gerard AB. Parent–child relationship inventory (PCRI) manual. Los Angeles: Western Psychological Services; 1994.
Hagekull B, Bohlin G, Hammarberg A. The role of parental perceived control in child development: a longitudinal study. Int J Behav Dev. 2001;25:429–37.
Hall H, Graff J. The relationships among adaptive behaviors of children with autism, family support, parenting stress, and coping. Issues Compr Pediatr Nurs. 2010;34:4–25.
Hassall R, Rose J, McDonald J. Parenting stress in mothers of children with an intellectual disability: the effects of parental cognitions in relation to child characteristics and family support. J Intellect Disabil Res. 2005;49:405–18.
Hastings RP. Parental stress and behaviour problems of children with developmental disability. J Intellect Dev Disabil. 2002;27:149–60.
Hastings RP, Symes MD. Early intensive behavioral intervention for children with autism: parental therapeutic self-efficacy. Res Dev Disabil. 2002;23:332–41.
Hayes SA, Watson SL. 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. J Autism Dev Disorder. 2012;43:629–42.
Hines M, Balandin S, Togher L. Communication and AAC in the lives of adults with autism: the stories of their older parents. Augment Altern Commun. 2011;27:256–66.
Hobson RP, Ouston J, Lee A. Naming emotion in faces and voices: abilities and disabilities in autism and mental retardation. Br J Dev Psychol. 1989;7:237–50.
Hoogsteen L, Woodgate RL. Centering autism within the family: a qualitative approach to autism and the family. J Pediat Nurs. 2012;28:135–40.
Hughes C, Ensor R. Behavioural problems in 2-year-olds: links with individual differences in theory of mind, executive function and harsh parenting. J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2006;47:488–97.
Jardine KM. What meaning does raising a child with autism have for parents? A qualitative exploration. Ph.D. thesis; 2009.
Johnson SM, Wahl G, Martin S, Johnsson S. How deviant is the normal child? A behavioral analysis of the preschool child and his family. In: Annual meeting of the Association of the Advancement of Behavior Therapy (5th, Washington DC, 1971); 1972. p. 1–31.
Kanner L. Early infantile autism. J Pediatr. 1944;25:211–17.
Kim YS, Leventhal BL, Koh YJ, et al. Prevalence of autism spectrum disorders in a total population sample. Am J Psychiatry. 2011;168:904–12.
Knapp M, Romeo R, Beecham J. Economic cost of autism in the UK. Autism. 2009;13:317–36.
Koegel RL, Schreibman L, O’Neil RE, Burke JC. The personality and family interaction characteristics of parents of autistic children. J Consult Clin Psychol. 1983;51:683–92.
Kolko DJ, Kazdin AE. Emotional/behavioral problems in clinic and nonclinic children: correspondence among child, parent, and teacher reports. J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 1993;34:991–1006.
Konstantareas MM, Homatidis S. Assessing child symptom severity and stress in parents of autistic children. J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 1989;30:459–70.
Kotchick BA, Dorsey S, Heller L. Predictors of parenting among African American single mothers: personal and contextual factors. J Marriage Fam. 2005;67:448–60.
Kring SR, Greenberg JS, Seltzer MM. The impact of health problems on behaviour problems in adolescents and adults with autism spectrum disorders: implications for maternal burden. Soc Work Ment Health. 2010;8:54–71.
Lecavalier L, Leone S, Wiltz J. The impact of behaviour problems on caregiver stress in young people with autism spectrum disorders. J Intellect Disabil Res. 2006;50:172–83.
Levy SE, Mandell DS, Schultz RT. Autism. Lancet. 2009;374:1627–38.
Little L. Maternal discipline of children with Asperger’s syndrome and nonverbal learning disorders. Am J Matern Child Nurs. 2002;27:349–54.
McAdoo WG, DeMeyer MK. Research related to family factors in autism. J Pediatr Psychol. 1977;2:162–6.
McManus S, Meltzer H, Brugha T, Bebbington P, Jenkins R. Adult psychiatric morbidity in England, 2007. London: The NHS Information Centre for Health and Social Care; 2007.
Meirsschaut M, Roeyers H, Warreyn P. Parenting in families with a child with autism spectrum disorder and a typically developing child: mothers’ experiences and cognitions. Res Autism Spectrum Disord. 2010;4:661–9.
Meyers SA, Miller C. Direct, mediated, moderated, and cumulative relations between neighborhood characteristics and adolescent outcomes. Adolescence. 2004;39:121–44.
Milgram NA, Atzil M. Parenting stress in raising autistic children. J Autism Dev Disord. 1988;18:415–24.
Milshtein S, Yirmiya N, Oppenheim D, Koren-Karie N, Levi S. Resolution of the diagnosis among parents of children with autism spectrum disorder: associations with child and parent characteristics. J Autism Dev Disord. 2010;40:89–99.
Moran G, Pederson DR, Pettit P, Krupka A. Maternal sensitivity and infant-mother attachment in a developmentally delayed sample. Infant Behav Dev. 1992;15:427–42.
Murphy M, Bolton PF, Pickles A, et al. Personality traits of the relatives of autistic probands. Psychol Med. 2000;30:1411–24.
Myers BJ, Mackintosh VH, Goin-Kochel RP. “My greatest joy and my greatest heart ache:” Parents’ own words on how having a child in the autism spectrum has affected their lives and their families’ lives. Res Autism Spectrum Disord. 2009;3:670–84.
Nealy CE, O’Hare L, Powers JD, Swick DC. The impact of autism spectrum disorders on the family: a qualitative study of mothers’ perspectives. J Fam Soc Work. 2012;15.
Neely-Barnes SL, Hall HR, Roberts RJ, Graff JC. Parenting a child with an autism spectrum disorder: public perceptions and parental conceptualizations. J Fam Soc Work. 2001;14.
Osborne LA. A dynamic transactional model of parent–child interactions. In: Reed P, editor. Behavioral theories and interventions for autism. New York: Nova Science; 2009.
Osborne LA, Reed P. Parents’ perceptions of communication with professionals during the diagnosis of autism. Autism. 2008;12:259–74.
Osborne LA, Reed P. The relationship between parental stress and behavior problems of children with autistic spectrum disorders. Except Child. 2009a;76:54–73.
Osborne LA, Reed P. The role of the family in autistic spectrum conditions: theory and practical implications. In: Krause PH, Dailey TM, editors. Handbook of parenting: styles, stresses, and strategies. New York: Nova Science; 2009b.
Osborne LA, Reed P. Stress and self-perceived parenting behaviors of parents of children with autistic spectrum conditions. Res Autism Spectrum Disord. 2010;4:405–14.
Osborne LA, McHugh L, Saunders J, Reed P. A possible contra indication for early diagnosis of autistic spectrum conditions: impact on parenting stress. Res Autism Spectrum Disord. 2008a;2:707–15.
Osborne LA, McHugh L, Saunders J, Reed P. The effect of parenting behaviors on subsequent child behavior problems in autistic spectrum conditions. Res Autism Spectrum Disord. 2008b;2:249–63.
Osborne LA, McHugh L, Saunders J, Reed P. Parenting stress reduces the effectiveness of early teaching interventions for autistic spectrum conditions. J Autism Dev Disord. 2008c;38:1092–103.
Phelps KL, Hodgson JL, McCammon SL, Lamson AL. Caring for an individual with autism disorder: a qualitative analysis. J Intellect Dev Disabil. 2009;34:27–35.
Pinderhughes EE, Dodge KA, Bates JE, Pettit GS, Zelli A. Discipline responses: influences of parents’ socioeconomic status, ethnicity, beliefs about parenting, stress, and cognitive-emotional processes. J Fam Psychol. 2000;14:380–400.
Piven J, Palmer P, Jacobi D, Childress D, Arndt S. Broader autism phenotype: evidence from a family history study of multiple-incidence autism families. Am J Psychiatry. 1997;154:185–90.
Plumb JC. The impact of social support and family resilience on parental stress in families with a child diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. Doctorate in Social Work (DSW); 2011.
Reed P, Osborne LA. Diagnostic practice and its impacts on parental health and child behaviour problems in autism spectrum disorders. BMJ Arch Child Dis. 2012a;97:927–31.
Reed R, Osborne LA. The role of parenting stress in discrepancies between parent and teacher ratings of behavior problems in young children with autism spectrum disorder. J Autism Dev Disorder. 2012b;43:471–7.
Resch JA, Mireles G, Benz MR, Grenwelge C, Peterson R, Zhang D. Giving parents a voice: a qualitative study of the challenges experienced by parents of children with disabilities. Rehabil Psychol. 2010;55:139–50.
Richters MM, Volkmar FR. Reactive attachment disorder of infancy or early childhood. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 1994;33:328–32.
Robinson EA, Anderson LL. Family adjustment, parental attitudes, and social desirability. J Abnorm Child Psychol. 1983;11:247–56.
Rothbaum F, Weisz JR. Parental caregiving and child externalizing behaviour in nonclinical samples: a meta-analysis. Psychol Bull. 1994;116:55–74.
Rutgers AH, Bakermans-Kranenburg MJ, Van IJzendoorn MH, Van Berckelaer-Onnes IA. Autism and attachment: a meta-analytic review. J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2004;45:1123–34.
Rutgers AH, van IJzendoorn MH, Bakermans-Kranenburg MJ, et al. Autism, attachment and parenting: a comparison of children with autism spectrum disorder, mental retardation, language disorder, and non-clinical children. J Abnorm Child Psychol. 2007;35:859–70.
Schaaf RC, Toth-Cohen S, Johnson S, Outten G, Benevides SW. The everyday routines of families of children with autism: examining the impact of sensory processing difficulties on the family. Autism. 2011;15:373–89.
Schopler E. Parents of psychotic children as scapegoats. J Contemp Psychother. 1971;4:17–22.
Seskin L, Feliciano E, Tippy G, et al. Attachment and autism: parental attachment representations and relational behaviors in the parent–child dyad. J Abnorm Child Psychol. 2010;38:949–60.
Shattock P, Lowdon G. Proteins, peptides and autism: II. Implications for the education and care of people with autism. Brain Dysfunct. 1991;4:323–34.
Siller M, Sigman M. Modeling longitudinal change in the language abilities of children with autism: parent behaviors and child characteristics as predictors of change. Dev Psychol. 2008;44:1691–704.
Slomins V, McConachie H. Analysis of mother–infant interaction in infants with Down syndrome and typically developing infants. Am J Ment Retard. 2006;111:273–89.
Stelter RL, Halberstadt AG. The interplay between parental beliefs about children’s emotions and parental stress impacts children’s attachment security. Infant Child Dev. 2011;20:272–87.
Tinbergen EA, Tinbergen N. Early childhood autism: an ethological approach. New York: Taylor Francis; 1972.
Van Ijzendoorn MH, Rutgers AH, Bakemans-Kranenburg MJ, et al. Parental sensitivity and attachment in children with autism spectrum disorder: comparison with children with mental retardation, with language delays, and with typical development. Child Dev. 2007;78:597–608.
Wahler RG, Dumas JE. Attentional problems in dysfunctional mother child interactions: an interbehavioral model. Psychol Bull. 1989;105:116–30.
Wan MW, Green J, Elsabbagh M, et al. Parent–infant interaction in infant siblings at risk of autism. Res Dev Disabil. 2012;33:924–32.
Weiss MJ. Hardiness and social support as predictors of stress in mothers of typical children, children with autism, and children with mental retardation. Autism. 2002;6:115–30.
Wing L. The history of ideas on autism. Autism. 1997;1:13–23.
Wolf LC, Noh S, Fisman SN, Speechley M. Brief report: psychological effects of parenting stress on parents of autistic children. J Autism Dev Disord. 1989;19:157–66.
Woodgate RL, Ateah C, Secco L. Living in a world of our own: the experience of parents who have a child with autism. Qual Health Res. 2008;18:1075–83.
Yirmiya N, Gamliel I, Pilowsky T, et al. The development of siblings of children with autism at 4 and 14 months: social engagement, communication, and cognition. J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2006;47:511–23.
Youngstrom E, Loeber R, Stouthamer-Loeber M. Patterns and correlates of agreement between parent, teacher, and male adolescent ratings of externalizing and internalizing problems. J Consult Clin Psychol. 2000;68:1038–50.
Editors and Affiliations
Rights and permissions
© 2014 Springer Science+Business Media New York
About this entry
Cite this entry
Reed, P., Osborne, L.A. (2014). Parenting and Autism Spectrum Disorders. In: Patel, V., Preedy, V., Martin, C. (eds) Comprehensive Guide to Autism. Springer, New York, NY. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-4788-7_5
Publisher Name: Springer, New York, NY
Print ISBN: 978-1-4614-4787-0
Online ISBN: 978-1-4614-4788-7
eBook Packages: Behavioral ScienceReference Module Humanities and Social Sciences