Date of Award

January 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Counseling Psychology & Community Services

First Advisor

Rachel L. Navarro


Although parents of any child experience stress related to child rearing, parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are especially prone to parenting stress. The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship that child characteristics (symptom severity, adaptive behavior, and problem behaviors), parental self-efficacy, and social support have on parenting stress in mothers and fathers of children with an ASD. Participants included mothers (n= 26) and fathers (n=18) of children ages 3 to 24 years in age with a diagnosis of ASD. Maternal and paternal participants completed measures of symptom severity (GARS-3; Gilliam, 2013), adaptive and problem behaviors (BASC-2-PRS; Reynolds & Kamphaus, 2004), parental self-efficacy (PSOCS; Gibaud-Wallston & Wandersman, 1978), perceived social support (FSS; Dunst et al., 1984), and parental stress (PSI-SF; Abidin, 1995) to better clarify the relationship between the aforementioned variables. Pearson’s correlations indicated that parental self-efficacy and child problem behaviors were strongly correlated with parental stress in both mothers and fathers of children with ASDs. Furthermore, the results of a oneway-ANOVA revealed significant differences between parental stress levels (F(1, 42)= 5.74, p<.05) and child problem behaviors (F(1, 42)= 6.79, p<.05) between mothers and fathers; with mothers reporting experiencing significantly greater parental stress and child problem behaviors than fathers. Problem behaviors were the only child characteristic that was a significant predictor of parental stress (r2= 0.151, p<.01). Mediation and moderation analyses found that parental self-efficacy was also found to be a significant predictor of parental stress in mothers (38% variance), fathers (60% variance), and both parents (52.3% variance). No mediating or moderating factors were identified. Implications for practice, limitations, and directions for future research are discussed.