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Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 46, Issue 9, pp 2979–2991 | Cite as

Parents of Children with ASD Experience More Psychological Distress, Parenting Stress, and Attachment-Related Anxiety

  • Belinda M. Keenan
  • Louise K. Newman
  • Kylie M. Gray
  • Nicole J. Rinehart
Original Paper

Abstract

There has been limited study of the relationship between child attachment and caregiver wellbeing amongst children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This study examined self-reported child attachment quality alongside caregivers’ report of their own psychological distress, parenting stress and attachment style, amongst 24 children with high-functioning autism or Asperger’s disorder (ASD; aged 7–14 years) and 24 typically developing children (aged 7–12 years), and their primary caregiver. Children with ASD were no less secure, but their caregivers were more stressed and reported more attachment-related anxiety, compared to typically developing dyads. Child attachment security was related to caregiver psychological distress and attachment style, but only amongst typically developing children. Impacts of emotion processing impairments on caregiver-child relationships in ASD are discussed.

Keywords

Autism spectrum disorder Attachment Middle childhood Parenting stress 

Notes

Acknowledgments

This research was completed by Belinda Keenan as part of a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology at Monash University, supervised by Louise Newman, Nicole Rinehart and Kylie Gray. This work was funded by Monash University School of Psychological Sciences. We are grateful to Tamara May for assistance in participant recruitment and cognitive testing.

Funding

This work was funded by Monash University School of Psychological Sciences.

Author Contributions

BK participated in the design and coordination of the study, conducted the recruitment and testing of participants, and drafted the manuscript; LN conceived of the study, participated in the design of the study and interpretation of the data, and helped draft the manuscript; KG conceived of the study, participated in the design of the study and interpretation of the data, and helped draft the manuscript; NR conceived of the study, participated in the design of the study and interpretation of the data, and helped draft the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institution and national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all participants included in the study.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Belinda M. Keenan
    • 1
  • Louise K. Newman
    • 2
  • Kylie M. Gray
    • 1
  • Nicole J. Rinehart
    • 3
  1. 1.Centre for Developmental Psychiatry and Psychology, Department of Psychiatry, School of Clinical Sciences at Monash HealthMonash UniversityNotting HillAustralia
  2. 2.Centre for Women’s Mental HealthThe Royal Women’s Hospital and University of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia
  3. 3.Deakin Child Study Centre, School of PsychologyDeakin UniversityGeelongAustralia

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