Date of Conferral







Brian Ragsdale


Mothers of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) experience symptoms of depression, anxiety, stress, and despair stemming from the challenges of raising offspring with behavioral, communicative, and socioemotional impairments. Researchers have shown that children diagnosed with ASDs exhibit symptoms within the first year of life (early-onset), while some exhibit normal development until the second year (regressive-onset), and some exhibit normal development until the second year but display abnormalities in the first year (mixed-onset). Despite the wealth of research on ASDs, there are few examinations of ASD symptom onset groups and the impact of those onset groups on parental psychological experiences: stress, impact on family, and future hopes. This research compared the retrospective parent reports of 31 mothers across ASD onset groups (early-onset, n = 16, regressive-onset, n = 8, and mixed-onset, n = 7) with psychological experiences using Impact on Family Scale, the Vicarious Futurity Scale, and the Parent Stress Inventory. A one-way multivariate analysis of variance assessed the relationship between maternal groups and psychological experiences. No significant differences were found between the groups. However, significant correlations were found between stress, family impact, and perceived hope for the future. Mothers reporting high levels of stress also reported high levels of family impact and low levels of perceived hope for the future. There is a need for increased emotional support for mothers of children diagnosed with ASDs. It should be a standard practice for clinicians, upon diagnosing children with ASDs, to refer mothers and caregivers to therapy or support groups. This may alleviate key aspects of family stressors.