Child behavior problems and partner mental health

Hastings, R. P. (2003). Child behavior problems and partner mental health as correlates of stress in mothers and fathers of children with autism. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 47, 231-237.

The main aim of this study was to take and analyze measurements focused primarily on an individual parent’s experience of stress in families with children with autism and to assess broader dimensions of parental mental health. The study focused on the effects of other family members on stress reported by mothers and fathers and the strength of the relationships between reported stress levels. Eighteen couples of parents of children with autism were involved in the study which consisted of three different assessments. These were: (1) The extent of problem behavior in each child was measured using the Developmental Behavior Checklist (DBC), (2) Parental mental health was measured using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, and (3) Parental stress was measured by the Parent and Family Problems subscale of the QRS-F. The results of these three assessments and study of correlation among them permitted these conclusions to be made:

  1. In general, mother’s reported more anxiety than their spouses
  2. Factors other than those reported on the assessments produced stress in the fathers

  3. The mothers’ stress was associated with the child’s problem behaviors and the fathers’ mental health symptoms

  4. The mothers were more affected by the child and their spouses than the father