Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 46, Issue 10, pp 3242–3257 | Cite as

Proband Mental Health Difficulties and Parental Stress Predict Mental Health in Toddlers at High-Risk for Autism Spectrum Disorders

  • Katherine Crea
  • Cheryl Dissanayake
  • Kristelle Hudry
Original Paper


Family-related predictors of mental health problems were investigated among 30 toddlers at familial high-risk for autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and 28 controls followed from age 2- to 3-years. Parents completed the self-report Depression Anxiety Stress Scales and the parent-report Behavior Assessment System for Children. High-risk toddlers were assessed for ASD at 3-years. Parent stress and proband mental health difficulties predicted concurrent toddler mental health difficulties at 2-years, but only baseline proband internalising problems continued to predict toddler internalising problems at 3-years; high-risk status did not confer additional risk. Baseline toddler mental health difficulties robustly predicted later difficulties, while high-risk status and diagnostic outcome conferred no additional risk. A family systems perspective may be useful for understanding toddler mental health difficulties.


Mental health Parent stress Autism spectrum disorders High-risk siblings Family environment 



We thank the children and families for their generous contribution to the Wellbeing and Emotional Development in Toddlers study and Megan Grant and Janette Rees for their assistance with data collection. We also thank two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions on the manuscript. This research formed part of the thesis for Katherine Crea towards the Doctor of Clinical Psychology degree, supported by La Trobe University’s School of Psychological Science funding for postgraduate research. Katherine Crea was also supported by a La Trobe University Postgraduate Research Scholarship.

Author Contributions

KC, CD and KH designed the study. KC conducted all recruitment and data collection with support from KH. KC conducted all data analysis and manuscript writing with support from both KH and CD.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

None declared.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katherine Crea
    • 1
  • Cheryl Dissanayake
    • 1
  • Kristelle Hudry
    • 1
  1. 1.Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre, School of Psychological ScienceLa Trobe UniversityMelbourneAustralia

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