Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 42, Issue 12, pp 2597–2610 | Cite as

Network Characteristics, Perceived Social Support, and Psychological Adjustment in Mothers of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

  • Paul R. Benson
Original Paper


This study examined the characteristics of the support networks of 106 mothers of children with ASD and their relationship to perceived social support, depressed mood, and subjective well-being. Using structural equation modeling, two competing sets of hypotheses were assessed: (1) that network characteristics would impact psychological adjustment directly, and (2) that network effects on adjustment would be indirect, mediated by perceived social support. Results primarily lent support to the latter hypotheses, with measures of network structure (network size) and function (proportion of network members providing emotional support) predicting increased levels of perceived social support which, in turn, predicted decreased depressed mood and increased well-being. Results also indicated that increased interpersonal strain in the maternal network was directly and indirectly associated with increased maternal depression, while being indirectly linked to reduced well-being. Study limitations and implications are discussed.


Social Networks Social Support Psychological Adjustment Autism Spectrum Disorder Mothers 



Special thanks are extended to the mothers who participated in this study and to Kristie Karlof, Dorothy Robison, and Zach Rossetti for their invaluable assistance in data collection. The research on which this study is based was supported by the U.S. Department of Education, Grant No. H324C040092 (A Longitudinal Study of Children with ASD and Their Families During the Elementary School Years).


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology and Center for Social Development and EducationUniversity of Massachusetts BostonBostonUSA

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