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Autism. 2012 May;16(3):261-74. doi: 10.1177/1362361311422708. Epub 2012 Feb 1.

The impact of child problem behaviors of children with ASD on parent mental health: the mediating role of acceptance and empowerment.

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Department of Psychology, York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


Raising a child with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has often been associated with higher levels of parenting stress and psychological distress, and a number of studies have examined the role of psychological processes as mediators of the impact of child problem behavior on parent mental health. The current study examined the relations among child problem behavior, parent mental health, psychological acceptance, and parent empowerment. Participants included 228 parents of children diagnosed with ASD, 6-21 years of age. As expected, psychological acceptance and empowerment were negatively related to the severity of parent mental health problems. When acceptance and empowerment were compared with each other through a test of multiple mediation, only psychological acceptance emerged as a significant partial mediator of the path between child problem behavior and parent mental health problems. As child problem behavior increased, parent psychological acceptance decreased, resulting in an increase in parent mental health problems. These findings suggest that for problems that are chronic and difficult to address, psychological acceptance may be an important factor in coping for parents of young people with ASD, in line with the growing literature on positive coping as compared with problem-focused coping.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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