Impact of Behavior on Caregiver Stress

Lecavalier, L., Leone, S., & Wiltz, J. (2006). The impact of behaviour problems on caregiver stress in young people with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 57, 172-183.

The purpose of this study was two-fold. The writers were concerned with, first, examining the correlation between caregiver stress and the presence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in children and adolescents. They hypothesized that behavior problems associated with ASD would be associated with caregiver stress, but that the level of functioning of the child would not be related to the level of stress. The writers also studied the stability of behavior problems in those children and the level of caregiver stress over a period of 12-months. They hypothesized that levels would remain stable in both the teacher and parent groups. Teachers and parents of 193 children and adolescents with ASDs were included in this study. The Nisonger Child Behavior Rating Form (NCBRF) and the Scales of Independent Behavior-Revised (SIB-R) were used to collect data of behavior problem severity in the children with autism. The Parental Stress Index-Short Form (PSI-SF) and the Index of Teaching Stress (ITS) were used to measure stress levels in the children’s parents and teachers. The results confirmed one of the writers’ hypotheses that behavior problems were indeed associated with caregiver stress while the level of functioning was not. However, the results of the stability study showed that although parent reports of behavior problems and stress were stable over the 12 month period, teacher reports varied and did not display that same stability. This is actually very understandable since the teachers spend much less time with the students than do the parents, and the teachers tend to have more training specific for dealing with children who have ASDs. Also, some variability over the 12-month period could likely be due to changes in school environment that occurred within that period.