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Date Permissions Signed


Date of Award

Winter 2021

Document Type

Masters Thesis

Department or Program Affiliation

Experimental Psychology Graduate Program

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Schudlich, Tina Dawn Du Rocher

Second Advisor

Scollon, Christie Napa

Third Advisor

McLean, Kate C.


Parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) experience a great amount of stress. Evidence indicates that parent stress is associated with ASD symptom severity and potentially behavior problems. However, there are gaps in the literature examining these associations in fathers and whether these associations differ across mothers and fathers. Additionally, concepts surrounding “support” and “understanding” have been understudied in this context as well as how they are associated with parent stress. The current study addresses these gaps in the literature and expands on the research regarding fathers. We recruited 244 parents of children ages 3-5 with ASD who were diagnosed within the last 8-12 months. Parents completed the online questionnaires to assess their child’s behavior problems, ASD symptom severity, as well as their stress levels. We also assessed concepts of “support” and “understanding” using open-ended questions. We found that behavior problems were significantly associated with parent stress; however, there was not a statistically significant difference in this relationship between mothers and fathers. Additionally, ASD symptom severity was significantly associated with parent stress and parent gender moderated the association between symptom severity and parent stress. Simple slope analyses indicated a greater magnitude of this association for fathers. Common themes related to “support” and “understanding was reported, and we also found that the extent to which friends understood them was significantly associated with parent stress. Clinical implications and explanations were also discussed.




autism spectrum disorder, behavior problems, symptom severity, parent stress, support, understanding


Western Washington University

OCLC Number


Subject – LCSH

Autism spectrum disorders in children; Parents of autistic children; Parents of autistic children--Social networks; Parents of autistic children--Education; Children with autism spectrum disorders--Family




masters theses




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