Semester of Graduation

May 2019


Master of Arts (MA)



Document Type



Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is marked by pervasive impairments in social communication and restricted, repetitive interests, behaviors, and activities. Parents raising a child with ASD have consistently reported higher levels of parenting stress compared to parents of typically developing children and children with other disabilities. Several different factors influence parental stress levels at different stages of their child’s life, and so an understanding of the most predictive factors of parental stress at initial ASD assessments is critical to best serving the needs of families with a new diagnosis. The current study investigated several factors that may impact parenting stress at these assessments, including the severity of the autism impairments, the child’s adaptive functioning, aggression problems, and symptoms of hyperactivity and inattentiveness. The full regression model of autism symptom severity, adaptive behavior, aggression, hyperactivity, and attention problems to predict parental stress (Model 4) was statistically significant; the addition of aggression, hyperactivity, and aggression problems led to a statistically significant increase in variance explained. The results may have implications for understanding changing patterns of stress and addressing issues which may impact adherence to treatment recommendations. Limitations and future directions for research are also discussed.

Committee Chair

Johnny L. Matson