Parent Stress Adaptation Among Caregivers of Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Victoria M. Ambrus, Walden University


This study was a nonexperimental correlational study that took a strengths-based approach and utilized family systems theories to examine parenting stress, as measured by the Parenting Stress Index-Short Form, and posttraumatic growth (PTG), as measured by the Posttraumatic Growth Inventory, and the relationship between the two constructs. The study was conducted with a national sample of 136 maternal caregivers of transition-age youth on the autism spectrum (ASD), ages 14 to 22 years, recruited through social media, flyers, and referrals. Participants were primarily biological mothers (83.9%), White (87.5%), and resided in the South (68.4%); the mean age of the adolescent with ASD was 17.16 years. Descriptive statistical findings showed that caregivers had normal levels of parenting stress and high levels of PTG. Results from one-sample t tests showed that the sample parenting stress mean score (M = 51) was similar to the population mean score of 50 while the sample PTG mean score (M = 56) was significantly higher than the population PTG mean score of 52.5. The third research question examined if parenting stress was significantly associated with PTG, controlling for pertinent covariates. Hierarchical multiple linear regression findings indicated that, after controlling for the place of residence, parenting stress was significantly associated with PTG: as parenting stress increased, PTG decreased. Parenting stress explained 7% of the variance in PTG, a small effect size. Findings from this study denote the positive aspects of parenting an adolescent with ASD. Results can inform the development of parent interventions aimed at reducing parenting stress and enhancing PTG.