Time Demands of Caring for Children with Autism: What are the Implications for Maternal Mental Health?

  • Michael G. Sawyer
  • Michael Bittman
  • Annette M. La Greca
  • Angela D. Crettenden
  • Taylor F. Harchak
  • Jon Martin
Original Paper


This study examined the relationship between maternal mental health problems and both caregiving time and experience of time pressure for 216 mothers of children with autism. Data describing caregiving time was obtained using 24-h time-diaries. Standard questionnaires were used to assess time pressure, social support, children’s emotional and behavioural problems, and maternal mental health problems. After adjusting for the effect of children’s age, maternal social support, and children’s behaviour problems, time pressure but not hours of caregiving, had a significant positive relationship with maternal mental health problems. Findings suggest that the quality of home-based care for children with autism may be adversely affected if time pressure experienced by caregivers compromises their mental health and well being.


Autism Mothers Caregiving time Mental health problems Time use 



This study was funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council in Australia. The authors wish to acknowledge the help of Marie Iannos, Jude Brown and Penny Cass in conducting the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael G. Sawyer
    • 1
    • 2
  • Michael Bittman
    • 3
  • Annette M. La Greca
    • 4
  • Angela D. Crettenden
    • 5
  • Taylor F. Harchak
    • 1
  • Jon Martin
    • 6
  1. 1.Research and Evaluation UnitChildren, Youth and Women’s Health ServiceNorth AdelaideAustralia
  2. 2.Department of PaediatricsUniversity of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia
  3. 3.Department of SociologyUniversity of New EnglandArmidaleAustralia
  4. 4.Department of PsychologyUniversity of MiamiCoral GablesUSA
  5. 5.Australian Centre for Child ProtectionUniversity of South AustraliaMagillAustralia
  6. 6.Autism SAMarleston DCAustralia

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