Parent and Teacher Reported Child Characteristics Related to Parenting Stress in ASD
Parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) report higher parenting stress than parents of typically developing (TD) children (McStay et al., 2014). Research suggests children with ASD have more externalizing behaviors and lower adaptive functioning than TD peers (Towle et al. 2014), both of which predict higher parenting stress in this population (Hall, 2011; McStay et al., 2014). Further, agreement between parent-teacher ratings of behavioral and adaptive skills vary (Lane, Paynter, & Sharman 2013) and not entirely attributable to differential sample environments (Reed & Osborne 2013). This study helps elucidate the child characteristics related to parenting stress.
The purpose of this study was to examine how child behaviors influence stress in parents of children with ASD and to determine if there are differences among parent and teacher reports.
Our sample included 138 children (ages 3:1 to 6:11), their parents, and their teachers. Eighty-one TD children (45% female) and 57 children with ASD (23% female) were examined. Intensity and frequency of parenting stress was measured using the parent-reported Parenting Events Questionnaire (Crnic & Greenberg, 1990). Externalizing behaviors and adaptive functioning was measured using parent- and teacher-reported Behavior Assessment System for Children (BASC-2; Reynolds, & Kamphaus, 2004).
Two separate serial mediation models were conducted using the SPSS macro PROCESS (Hayes, 2008), which provided bootstrapped estimates of the indirect effects based on 5000 resamples. In the parent report mediation model, results indicated status was positively associated with parent-reported externalizing behaviors (B = 8.03, p < .001) and negatively associated with parent-reported adaptive skills (B = -9.94, p < .001). The direct effect of status on parenting stress was not significant (B = -3.45, p = .42). Results supported the mediating role of the child’s externalizing problems (B = 6.28, CI95 = 2.52 to 12.85) and the mediating role of the child’s adaptive skills (B = 4.29, CI95 = .75 to 8.84) in the association between status and parental stress. Additionally, the results indicated that, compared to TD children, children with ASD had greater externalizing problems, which predicted lower adaptive skills and associated with higher parental stress (B = 1.62, CI95 = .39 to 3.80). An identical teacher report mediation model revealed a nonsignificant indirect effect of externalizing problems (B = 3.81, CI95 = -1.028 to 8.36) and the mediating role of the child’s adaptive skills (B = 2.40, CI95 = -.16 to 6.42). Figures 1 and 2 display these results.
Our results suggest greater parenting stress in parents of children with ASD occurs through a serial mediated pathway such that higher parent-reported externalizing behaviors predicted lower parent-reported adaptive functioning which predicted increased parental stress. However, when using teacher-reported externalizing behaviors and adaptive functioning, this association was no longer significant. Future research should explore if the differences in parent and teacher report of child behaviors indicate a true difference between parental and teacher perceptions of behaviors and how these perceptions may perpetuate or alleviate parent stress.