Examination of Social Support and Stress Among Parents of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Objectives: This study had two objectives: 1) To determine whether African American and Caucasian parents of children with ASD differ in perceptions of social support; and 2) To identify regression between social support and stress as it relates to adjustment of parents of children with ASD.
Methods: This study reports the findings of a cross-sectional survey of parents of children with ASD in a southeastern state. Participants included 252 parents of children with ASD. Participants were recruited via local treatment providers, ASD-specific listservs, support groups, and the SC Department of Disabilities and Special Needs (DDSN). The Parental Stress Scale (PSS) was used to measure parental stress and the Social Provisions Scale (SPS) was used to measure social support.
Results: Independent t-test was used to analyze results of the SPS and linear regression was used to analyze results of the PSS. T-test results indicated differences of perceived social support between Caucasian and African American parents were insignificant. Regression results indicated that the overall model of social support significantly predicts stress among Caucasian parents of children with ASD, R2=.218, F(1, 187)=54.16, p<.001. Elevated feelings of social support (β=-.467, p<.000) were associated with lower feelings of stress. Regression results also indicated that the overall model of social support significantly predicts stress among African American parents of children with ASD, R2=.276, F(1, 58)=22.11, p<.001. Elevated feelings of social support (β=-.525, p<.001) were associated with lower feelings of stress.
Conclusions: Having a thorough understanding of the relationship between stress and social support will allow the field of social science to develop more individualized services for parents of children with autism. Significant findings indicating higher levels of social support associating with lower levels of stress calls for future research to explore the aspects of social support which have the greatest influence on reducing stress.